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Articles Posted in Oil Spill Litigation

Post #2 image. 2014-03-26.jpgIn an important victory for plaintiffs across the Gulf Coast, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a serious blow to BP last month when the court rejected BP’s attempt to block settlement payments to large numbers of victims.

Specifically, BP had tried to prevent businesses from claiming a share of settlement funds unless they could clearly trace their losses back to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Fifth Circuit chose to reject BP’s argument that the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, had misinterpreted the terms of the carefully agreed upon settlement.

The defeat was a surprise to BP’s lawyers who have engaged in an aggressive campaign to cast victims of the oil spill as undeserving thieves. BP has taken out newspaper ads, run commercials on TV and generally gone after companies that it felt did not deserve a share of settlement funds. BP argued that businesses across the Gulf Coast were filing false claims and receiving compensation despite the fact that their losses had no connection to the oil spill.

Post #1 image. 2014-02-25.jpgA recent (and scathing) article in the Los Angeles Times took BP to task for its bad behavior over the past several months regarding its oil spill settlement. The article accuses officials at BP of displaying an unseemly buyer’s remorse regarding the settlement agreement it reached back in 2012 with private plaintiffs across the Gulf Coast who suffered damages as a result of the catastrophic oil spill.

At the time the settlement was reached, BP said that it “wanted to do the right thing” and ensure that victims of its mistakes would be compensated for the harm they endured thanks to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent spill. BP and a group of plaintiffs agreed that the settlement was in everyone’s best interest and would avoid forcing victims to file their cases individually, dramatically streamlining the claims process.

However, the good feelings surrounding the settlement agreement back in 2012 have long since evaporated and BP has devoted enormous time, money and energy into attacking the very agreement it worked so long and hard to craft. Recently, BP has dialed up the rancor of its attack, taking out full-page ads in newspapers across the region calling out individuals and businesses it said received settlement money they did not deserve.

In a surprising twist, news reports have covered the increasingly hostile campaign led by BP’s lawyers to discredit Judge Carl Barbier, the U.S. District Court Judge who is presiding over several cases concerning BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Experts say that the lengths BP has gone to are surprising given that most companies would try to avoid publicly embarrassing the judge assigned to watch over several of their multibillion dollar cases.

Earlier this year BP appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that Barbier had refused to stop payments of some claims that the oil company said were fictitious. As a result of that appeal, the Fifth Circuit ordered Barbier to reconsider BP’s claims and reevaluate whether business plaintiffs who had never suffered any real harm due to the accident were receiving payments.

Apparently unhappy with Barbier’s efforts, BP last week filed what it called an “emergency motion” with the Fifth Circuit asking them to yet again intervene. BP’s lawyers said that Barbier has defied the Fifth Circuit’s directive to prevent payments to undeserving claimants. Many experts familiar with the case say this motion is nearly unheard of given how aggressively it takes the presiding judge to task.

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Post #2 image. 2013-10-23.jpgIn good news for people waiting on money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement; U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has lifted a temporary pause on approving some claims for payment. However, Barbier simultaneously extended the stay on payments for those businesses whose loses were being contested by BP.

Judge Barbier issued a temporary injunction on payments late last week and said that the settlement claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, will have seven days to come up with new procedures to implement his changes regarding how business economic loss claims are decided and ultimately paid out. Barbier said the new guidelines were arrived at after reading over suggestions from BP’s lawyers and plaintiffs’ counsel, neither of whom he fully agreed with.

Barbier has said that he intends to follow the language of the original settlement document which does not require proof that the oil spill directly caused losses for those businesses located within a geographic area closest to the disaster, known as Zone A, to receive settlement payments. Barbier said that the language of the settlement agreement is clear that for these businesses, alternative causes of losses are irrelevant if financial data could show that a loss did indeed occur.

Post #1 image. 2013-10-10.jpgBP has spent the better part of the past year complaining that its fund for compensating victims of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been rapidly depleted due to fictitious or exaggerated claims by some individuals and businesses located along the Gulf Coast. Last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that partially sided with the oil company, agreeing that some settlement payments should be stopped and subjected to additional scrutiny.

Earlier this year BP brought a case before District Court Judge Carl Barbier where the company argued that Barbier should change the calculation used to award settlement payouts and that all payments should be frozen to allow for such a reconsideration. BP also sued the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, over the calculation used to award payouts.

In its recent decision, the Fifth Circuit affirmed Judge Barbier’s dismissal of BP’s suit against Patrick Juneau, the settlement claims administrator. However, the Court also chose to reverse Judge Barbier’s decision affirming Juneau’s interpretation of the oil spill settlement, remanding the case back to Barbier for reconsideration. The Court said that Barbier needs to look more closely at the language of the settlement and fully investigate whether payments are being made to individuals and businesses that were not damaged by the spill.

Post #1 image. 2013-09-13.jpgIn yet another indication of how brutally BP intends to fight to undercut the 2012 settlement agreement it signed with injured plaintiffs across the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the company has formally filed a request before a federal judge to ask that more than $25 million be cut from the budget of the Court Supervised Settlement Program. The slash in spending is aimed at reducing the amount of money the settlement program has to pay claims by those individuals and businesses injured following the oil spill.

The request is currently before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and experts remain doubtful that BP will be successful in its attempt to cut off money to the program administrator. That’s because Judge Barbier denied a similar motion by BP last quarter, ultimately deciding that BP had failed to show how the program administrator’s expenses were out of line. At the time, Barbier ordered Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau to hold meetings with BP to work out an agreement on the fourth quarter budget, something that either never happened or that was unsuccessful.

BP claims that in meetings prior to the release of the budget request, Juneau had agreed to drop his fourth court request from $131 million down to $111 million. BP claims that Juneau refused to go any lower despite their insistence that this figure was still too high. BP claims hat the Court Supervised Settlement Program spends money freely and without restraint, unilaterally setting high budgets and then refusing to manage vendors that fail to comply with what it says are already inflated budgets.

Post #5 image. 2013-09-04.jpgThe court-appointed claims administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement program, Patrick Juneau, responded aggressively last week to claims made by BP that the process is mired in fraud. Juneau’s court filing was in response to BP’s recent motion before Judge Carl Barbier that all payments in the claims program be suspended until an investigation into fraudulent claims can be completed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Juneau shot back claiming that BP’s complaint was full of “spurious allegations” and contained “broad, unfounded criticisms.” BP has tried arguing repeatedly that the settlement claims payment system is being abused and that businesses from across the Gulf Coast are swindling the company out of billions of dollars in fraudulent claims. Juneau said the idea that his office was paying such claims was baseless and he then recounted all the ways that he has taken action to ensure the claims payments have been handled aboveboard.

Juneau says that BP is asking the court system to protect it from “imagined harm” and that the company has gone too far in making claims of impropriety. BP claims that staff members at various claims centers have engaged in fraud, by allowing relatives to file claims and by taking a cut of other fraudulent oil spill claims. Juneau says any and all complaints have been investigated and not a single incident of abuse on the part of a claims center worker has been substantiated.

Post #6 image. 2013-09-04.jpgBP has yet again made a move to avoid paying the money it agreed to pay to injured plaintiffs in its 2012 oil spill settlement. BP announced that it would try and convince the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Judge Carl Barbier’s decision that approved the settlement agreement in the first place.

BP’s lawyers are now arguing in a recent court filing that Judge Barbier’s approval of claims administrator Patrick Juneau’s interpretation of settlement terms has allowed businesses across the Gulf Coast to profit off of inflated or fictitious settlement claims. Back in July, BP asked the Fifth Circuit to suspend settlement payments to businesses. BP has now gone much further; saying that if the Fifth Circuit fails to suspend those payments to businesses that it believes the entire settlement agreement ought to be rendered unfair and suspect.

Specifically, BP claims that if the payments to businesses are not suspended and a new calculation is employed to make future payments, then it believes the Fifth Circuit ought to overrule Judge Barbier’s approval of the settlement agreement that occurred last year. BP argues that the settlement process as it currently exists does not resemble the agreement they say they negotiated and, as such, the entire agreement ought to be tossed out as “constitutionally suspect”

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