A federal judge on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a proposed settlement with British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] over the Gulf oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in 2010. BP and a group of plaintiffs' attorneys sought preliminary approval [JURIST report] of the settlement agreement last month. Judge Carl Barbier's approval [AP report] allows the settlement to proceed. Barbier will hold a "fairness hearing" in November before deciding whether to give final approval to the settlement. While there is no cap on the settlement, it is estimated that BP will have to have to pay about $7.8 billion for the more than 100,000 claims.
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.