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March 6, 2014

BP Claims Update: Joe Rice comments on ruling from 5th Circuit regarding BEL claims

On Monday, March 3, 2014, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit rejected BP’s request to stop payments for business economic loss claims. This ruling upholds Judge Barbier’s ruling from December 2013, stating that the Settlement Agreement created between BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) for the BP Deepwater Horizon litigation doesn’t require certain businesses to trace losses to the oil spill. 

“This ruling by the 5th Circuit confirms what the PSC has been stating all along, that all language in the final Settlement Agreement was created and agreed to by BP and the PSC, is a reasonable compromise of difficult issues under the Oil Pollution Act and a fair mechanism by which claimants should be compensated for their losses,” stated Joe Rice, Motley Rice co-founding member and a lead negotiator of the Settlement. “While this is one step forward in this appeals process, unfortunately BEL claims will not be paid out until after other pending issues, argued by BP before the 5th Circuit, are resolved. While BP continues to delay accepting its responsibilities in compensating businesses along the Gulf Coast, my team at Motley Rice will continue fighting for victims of the Deepwater Horizon.”

Writing for the majority in Monday’s ruling, Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick opined, “It was a contractual concession by BP to limit the issue of factual causation in the processing of claims . . . There is nothing fundamentally unreasonable about what BP accepted but now wishes it had not.”

Concurring in part and in the judgment, Circuit Judge James Dennis noted that “. . . BP and the economic-loss claimants entered a settlement agreement adopting clearer definitions and formulas for the payment of such claims. At their request, the district court approved the settlement agreement as a class-action settlement in its consent decree.”

Additionally, Judge Dennis cited his partial dissent last year and reiterated his view that “. . . BP’s action was an unwarranted attempt to change the terms of the settlement agreement and the district court’s judgment rejecting that attempt should have been affirmed.”

Read the full opinion by the Fifth Circuit

Read the statement by Joe made on July 8, 2013 regarding the first hearing before the 5th Circuit in which the Court heard BP’s argument regarding claims for business economic losses.