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BP settlement administrator urges judge to dismiss suit over damages determination

The court-appointed administrator responsible for determining and paying out damages to individuals affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder], on Monday asked the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] to dismiss a lawsuit by British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] over how damage claims are determined. Last month, BP appealed [Reuters report] the court's earlier ruling upholding the way the compensation was being paid to business claimants wanting recompense. BP claims that administrator Patrick Juneau's methods give him too much leeway to make "absurd" payments for inflated or fictitious claims. Lawyers for Juneau assert [Reuters report] that his decisions regarding the payouts should have judicial immunity, claiming this immunity encourages "principled and fearless decision making" without the threat of interference from unhappy litigants. Even if Juneau were not entitled to immunity, Juneau's attorneys say that he has performed his official functions as claims administrator exactly as outlined in the settlement agreement.

Juneau's request comes as the court prepares to resume the non-jury trial to determine liability [JURIST report] for the April 20, 2010, rupture of the Macondo well and explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. In January a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana accepted a plea agreement [JURIST report] between BP and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] for the company's criminal liability in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Earlier in January, Transocean Ltd. [corporate website] pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to "negligently discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico," in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) [EPA summary] and will pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon spill. In December a federal judge approved [JURIST report] a final class settlement between BP and those who experienced economic and property loss stemming from the spill. In November BP executives pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to criminal charges stemming from the oil spill. Earlier that month BP agreed to pay [JURIST report] $4.5 billion in penalties for felony misconduct for its role in the spill. A federal judge ordered [JURIST report] BP to share partial liability with Transocean in oil spill claims in January 2012.

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