British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] and a group of plaintiffs' attorneys sought preliminary approval [BP press release] from a federal judge on Wednesday on a settlement agreement between the oil company and individuals and businesses adversely affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. BP and the plaintiffs hope that Judge Carl Barbier of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] will approve the settlement that the parties reached in March [JURIST report]. The settlement calls for BP to pay the plaintiffs approximately $7.8 billion in two separate agreements, one to resolve economic loss claims and another to resolve medical claims. In the press release, BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said that the settlement was a fair deal that compensated the victims of the Gulf oil spill for their losses:
This settlement demonstrates BP's continued progress in resolving significant issues related to the Deepwater Horizon accident. BP made a commitment to help economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast, and this settlement provides the framework for us to continue delivering on that promise, offering those affected full and fair compensation, without waiting for the outcome of a lengthy trial process.Barbier is expected to hold a hearing before deciding whether to approve the terms of the settlement.
In February, Barbier postponed the multi-billion dollar trial [JURIST report] over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, hours before the trial was set to begin, in order to give BP more time to reach an agreement with plaintiffs. Earlier in February, Barbier issued an order that BP will be held liable for a portion of the damages owed by Transocean [JURIST report] as a result of the disaster. Transocean is the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that was contracted by BP and subsequently caused the oil spill. BP will be required to indemnify Transocean against damages created by the pollution itself that are awarded throughout the litigation pending against it. BP will not be required to pay an punitive damages or civil fines as a result of these suits. The court did not rule as to whether BP or Transocean would be held strictly liable, negligent or grossly negligent for the equipment failure and subsequent oil spill that created the pollution. The ruling is separate from an August ruling by Barbier permitting punitive damages against BP [JURIST report], but that ruling pertained to claims brought against BP directly.