* Settles claims for economic losses and property damage
* Does not cover separate medical benefits settlement
* BP expects to pay $7.8 billion to settle class action
By Terry Baynes
Dec 21 A U.S. judge on Friday gave final
approval to BP Plc's settlement with individuals and
businesses who lost money and property in the 2010 Gulf of
Mexico oil spill.
The order only addressed the settlement of economic and
property damage claims, not a separate medical benefits
settlement for cleanup workers and others who say the spill made
BP has estimated that it will pay $7.8 billion to settle
more than 100,000 claims in the class action litigation.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier initially approved the deal
in May, but held a "fairness hearing" in November to weigh
objections from about 13,000 claimants challenging the
settlement to resolve some of BP's liability for the worst
offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
London-based BP's Macondo well spewed 4.9 million barrels of
oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days. The
torrent fouled shorelines from Texas to Alabama and eclipsed the
1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in severity.
Lawyers for some affected parties had objected to the deal,
reached in March between BP and lawyers representing plaintiffs
ranging from restaurateurs, hoteliers, and oyster men who lost
money from the spill. They argued that some claimants would be
underpaid or unfairly excluded.
But in a 125-page order approving the settlement, Barbier
called the deal "fair, reasonable and adequate," citing the low
number of class members who objected or opted out.
BP welcomed the approval order in a statement, adding that
the settlement resolves the majority of economic and property
damage claims stemming from the accident.
"Today's decision by the Court is another important step
forward for BP in meeting its commitment to economic and
environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf and in eliminating
legal risk facing the company," BP said.
Separate from the class action claims, BP has been locked in
a year-long legal battle with the U.S. government and Gulf Coast
states to settle billions of dollars in civil and criminal
liability from the explosion.
In a settlement with the U.S. government announced last
month, BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead
guilty to felony misconduct. The government also indicted the
two highest-ranking BP supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon
rig during the disaster, charging them with 23 criminal counts
The class action case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig
"Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010,
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, No.