Blog

« Back to Blog List
blog image

December 8, 2014

High Court rejects BP’s attempt to rewrite the contract

by: Joseph F. Rice

I am still amazed that I am writing this post and we are here today. However, I am gratified that the Supreme Court did not fall into BP’s game and indulge it by hearing its appeal of the Business and Economic Damages Settlement Agreement.

Finally, Gulf businesses and residents should be able to get the justice they deserve. In its games, BP has given the ultimate disrespect to those who were lost and their loved ones, and all those who have been affected by the tragedy that happened on April 20, 2010. Oil gushed into the Gulf for 87 days. Eleven people were killed, 17 more were injured. It was the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. Oil is still washing up on shores and people, businesses and wildlife are still suffering.

In the beginning, BP vowed to help and do anything necessary to make it right, but instead, after agreeing to the settlement, it decided to turn face and instead poured salt in an open wound. BP has demonstrated unprecedented behavior in wishing to back out of a settlement agreement that it agreed to over and over, and over, again. Supportive statements were made on record to the judge, to me and my fellow colleagues, including:

“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.”

BP Lead Attorney, Richard Godfrey, fall 2012

Additionally, on Nov. 8, 2012, at the Fairness Hearing about the Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement, Godfrey stated on record at 10:04 a.m.:

“The settlement is working as we anticipated and as we negotiated with Mr. Rice and Mr. Fayard.”

BP understood the agreement it made with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, saw it in action and agreed that it was working. Only later would it decide, after pressure from its shareholders, that it didn’t want justice for the Gulf, but more money for its coffers. 

And this Supreme Court decision is now after yet another audit, an independent audit by McGladrey that BP requested and asked to be made public, has shown that 99.5 percent of all claims have been processed correctly, with a less than 1 percent error rate, about which the audit said, “by any objective measure, these error rates are extremely low.” The audit also reported that the claims process was “well-designed and appropriate.”

I’ve said this before, but having been involved with some of the nation’s largest settlements and litigation processes, I have never seen a defendant try to pull this many tricks to try to get out of something it caused. Unfortunately I don’t believe this is the end of BP’s stunts. What is needed now is a strong stance by the Claims Administrator to be able to do his job under the settlement and promptly pay claimants under the terms of the agreement–as the McGladrey audit, and the first audit before that, showed is working as it should.

What remains to be seen is whether Policy 495, which I discussed in a previous blog, will be implemented. If so, BP will have successfully rewritten the settlement agreement. That would be unconscionable.

The most important thing for the businesses and people of the Gulf to know is that, with this decision by the Supreme Court, claimants that have not yet submitted a claim now have six months to do so. But at the end of that six month period, all unfiled class claims are barred.

I have no doubt that BP still has tricks up its sleeve, but, at least for today, there is a renewed hope for justice and support for the people of the Gulf Coast from our justice system.