In a surprising twist, news reports have covered the increasingly hostile campaign led by BP’s lawyers to discredit Judge Carl Barbier, the U.S. District Court Judge who is presiding over several cases concerning BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Experts say that the lengths BP has gone to are surprising given that most companies would try to avoid publicly embarrassing the judge assigned to watch over several of their multibillion dollar cases.
Earlier this year BP appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that Barbier had refused to stop payments of some claims that the oil company said were fictitious. As a result of that appeal, the Fifth Circuit ordered Barbier to reconsider BP’s claims and reevaluate whether business plaintiffs who had never suffered any real harm due to the accident were receiving payments.
Apparently unhappy with Barbier’s efforts, BP last week filed what it called an “emergency motion” with the Fifth Circuit asking them to yet again intervene. BP’s lawyers said that Barbier has defied the Fifth Circuit’s directive to prevent payments to undeserving claimants. Many experts familiar with the case say this motion is nearly unheard of given how aggressively it takes the presiding judge to task.
Not content to stand idly by, Barbier released an 11-page order the day after BP’s emergency motion where he similarly attacked the oil company. In his order he called the actions of the oil company’s legal team “deeply disappointing.” Barbier said that BP’s continuous appeals are an attempt by the company to change their story and try to rewrite history regarding the settlement reached with private plaintiffs.
Barbier went on to condemn BP for seeking to undermine a settlement agreement that the company had previously advocated for. Barbier said that now that BP has realized how expensive the settlement may end up being, it has done an about-face and is now trying to rewrite an agreement that was already finalized. As evidence of this, Barbier sites a memo written by one of BP’s in-house attorneys last year. In that memo the lawyer notes that the settlement agreement language could clearly lead to “false positives”, meaning that some claimants who did not actually suffer spill-related damage could still file claims.
Barbier has said that it’s surprising that the same lawyers who represented BP during settlement negotiations, participated in drafting the agreement and then “strenuously advocated” for its approval are now leading such an aggressive campaign to undo the agreement. The hope is that the Fifth Circuit agrees with Judge Barbier and refuses to allow BP to further weasel its way out of the settlement agreement it signed.
If you’ve been impacted by this or any other oil spill, please don’t hesitate to contact the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill attorneys at Kilpatrick & Philley at toll free (601) 856-7800.
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