Largest class action settlement agreement considered final, marking start of six-month claims deadline
Today, the United States Supreme Court announced that it has denied BP’s request to hear the case BP Exploration & Production Inc. v. Lake Eugenie Land & Development, Inc., regarding the validity of the Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement in In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon.” As a result, the Settlement Agreement is now final, beginning the six-month deadline in which all claims under this settlement must be filed. By not hearing this case, the Supreme Court has allowed all claims within the parameters outlined in the Economic and Property Damages Settlement to finally proceed.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled approximately 4.9 million gallons of oil into the water, killed 11 oil rig workers, devastated our nation’s natural resources and harmed the economic and emotional well-being of hundreds of thousands of people.
“I am gratified that, finally, our clients’ claims can be processed, as they should have been long ago if not for BP’s cruel antics that were allowed to delay the settlement that BP itself agreed to,” said Joe Rice (DC, SC), Motley Rice co-founder, Deepwater Horizon Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee member and a lead negotiator in the two settlements with BP. “Now the Supreme Court has reinforced and put to rest what Judge Barbier and the Fifth Circuit already have said multiple times – that BP willingly and enthusiastically created and supported this settlement. Now, once and for all, they have to pay for what they caused to businesses and people throughout the Gulf Coast.”
Throughout the more than 18-month long settlement discussions, BP and its attorneys regularly made statements that reinforced their support and participation in crafting the settlement, including BP lead attorney Richard Godfrey’s statement at a Fairness Hearing about the settlement on Nov. 8, 2012: “Like any settlement, the settlement that has been reached to resolve this litigation is a compromise, a yielding of the highest hopes in exchange for certainty and resolution. The settlement stands alone, however, in its substantive generosity to the class members and in its procedural fairness.”
With this decision by the Supreme Court, class claims not previously filed can still be filed through the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center. After the six-month deadline, all unfiled class claims are barred.
“I am relieved that class claims will finally be allowed to be processed and additional claims related to the spill will able to be submitted – so long as the Claims Administrator is permitted to do his job under the settlement as it was written and be able to promptly pay the people of the Gulf Coast,” added Rice. “BP has over and over again painted itself the victim, when in fact it harmed thousands of Americans in the largest oil spill this country has seen. Meanwhile the true victims, Gulf residents under the Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement, are everyday business owners and entrepreneurs who are trying to live their American dream, but have been struggling to stay afloat since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.”
The Supreme Court’s decision comes after the release of a second audit by McGladrey, which was requested by BP and that BP asked to be made public. This independent, third-party audit reported that 99.5 percent of claims were processed correctly, with an error rate of less than one percent. The audit stated the claims center process was “well-designed and appropriate” and made no recommendations for improvement. “By any objective measure, these error rates are extremely low,” the audit report also said.