Articles Posted in Oil Spill Litigation

Post #1 image. 2013-08-131.jpgMore bad news for BP and its efforts to avoid paying injured plaintiffs across Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states the settlement money that they were promised. A federal judge in New Orleans last week ordered BP to put up another $130 million for settlement payments to cover the next three months.

BP claims that the settlement administrator, Patrick Juneau, has been approving and paying claims to individuals and businesses that are excessive. BP objected when the court administered settlement program presented the $128 million budget in July. The budget indicated that $128 million was needed to provide the money necessary to fund operations in the third quarter of this year. BP claimed that the costs were excessive and argued it should be able to suspend payments to the settlement program.

Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan overruled these objections and ordered BP to fully fund the program. In her order, Shushan also asked the claims administrator to send BP budget estimates every 60 days in the future so the oil company has more updated notice of expenses. Shushan showed little sympathy for BP, saying that the company has “unreasonably withheld” its approval of the proposed budget.

Post #1 image. 2013-08-05.jpgA spokesperson for BP announced only a few days ago that the settlement it reached with private plaintiffs regarding the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill could be threatened if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decides against the oil company. BP claimed that if the Court does not agree to throw out the current payment calculation being used by claims administrator Patrick Juneau it could force BP to scuttle the settlement.

BP claims that payments being made by Juneau to private businesses and individuals in Mississippi and several other Gulf Coast states are based on a misinterpretation of settlement terms. BP first took its claims to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier who has now three times refused to order Juneau to change his current method of calculating settlement payouts. BP then appealed Judge Barbier’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now reviewing the case and expected to issue a decision shortly.

BP’s lead attorney, Ted Olson, announced that if the Fifth Circuit were to affirm Barbier’s decision, the settlement at issue in the case would be “rendered invalid.” Olson says that as of July 28, BP has paid out $4.2 billion in total compensation as part of the settlement. Moreover, these payments have increased quickly since the BP began its vocal challenge of the payment calculations, with an average of $119 million per week being paid by the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center in the time since July 8th.

Post #3 image. 2013-07-11.jpgAs the BP oil spill settlement fight continues to ramp up, reports indicate that the number of people filing claims for compensation is also on an upward trajectory. According to data released by the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, the number of claims filed against BP’s compensation fund is up 18 percent in only the last six weeks. This means the total claims filed now stands at 195,403.

Experts say the increase is surprising given that the claims payout process has been open for nearly a year and the fund will continue accepting claims until next April, meaning there is still plenty of time for injured plaintiffs to file claims and receive the money they are owed. The best guess is that plaintiffs have gotten nervous after BP’s repeated complaints about paying more than it expected in the settlement and are acting now to ensure they are not left out of the lucrative claims money.

Industry experts say the sudden increase in claims may substantially increase the amount of money BP will now have to pay in the settlement, likely by hundreds of millions of dollars. BP will also likely mention the increase as the company continues fighting about the terms of the settlement it reached with plaintiffs in 2012. BP argues the terms of the agreement are being misinterpreted by the claims administrator and that businesses who are not deserving of settlement money have been profiting due to Juneau’s formula.

Post #2 image. 2013-07-16.jpgIn a surprising and especially aggressive turn, it has been revealed that BP has created a “snitch line” so that individuals can call in and inform on others who they suspect of filing fraudulent claims related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Are your serious, BP?!?!?

Media reports say that the hotline promises callers that any and all tips that lead directly o an indictment, a recovery of money paid or the denial of a claim because of fraud or corruption may entitle the tipster to a cash reward. BP created the snitch line after the company has pressed courts in the region to reassess the terms of the settlement it reached with plaintiffs injured by the oil spill. The company claims it is being forced to pay millions in inflated or fictitious claims and so far the court system has said it disagrees with BP’s assessment.

Taking matters into its own hands, BP is now seeking to check what it says are rampant fake claims by incentivizing citizens to turn on each other. BP says that it believes the court-supervised settlement program being run by Patrick Juneau does not dedicate sufficient resources to sniffing out fraud. Specifically, BP says the settlement program has not devoted enough investigators to fully researching all settlement claims; a failure that it says is costing the company millions.

Post #4 image. 2013-06-06.jpgAccording to neighboring Alabama’s Attorney General, Luther Strange, more than 32,367 individuals and businesses in the state have filed claims to secure their share of a recent BP oil spill settlement. The settlement money was put aside to compensate those who suffered damages in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the good news about tens of thousands of people accessing the settlement money, Attorney General Strange says there are many thousands more who might qualify for money but who have not yet filed the proper paperwork to collect. Strange says that so far 9,600 of the claims that have been filed in Alabama have been found eligible for settlement money and claims administrators continue to review thousands more. Of the claims that have been deemed eligible, $573 million has been paid out to claimants from the state.

Though this all is good news for those in Alabama, the claims administrator of the civil settlement fund, Patrick Juneau, says good news has been spread across the region as 172,000 claims have been filed in five states. Those claimants have so far received $3.5 billion of settlement money.

Post #2 image. 2013-06-12.jpgBP and the Coast Guard jointly announced that the cleanup that was begun after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 has come to an end in three Gulf Coast states. More than three years after the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the oil company says that the coastlines of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have now been returned to pre-spill conditions.

Despite the supposed good news for Mississippi, officials say the oil spill cleanup process continues in Louisiana which still sees frequent appearance of tar balls and other debris washing up on the coastlines, especially on barrier islands. Officials with the Coast Guard say that though things are not yet perfect in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, conditions have returned to near normal and that it made sense to end the expensive cleanup process at this point.

Officials in cities along the Gulf Coast have been adamant that the problems are not yet solved; with some saying tar balls continue to wash ashore in Mississippi and Alabama every week. However, the Coast Guard says that BP will remain responsible for any instances of oil reappearance and that as tar continues to occasionally wash ashore, the oil company will be expected to have it cleaned up.

Post #1 image. 2013-06-26.jpgBP has begun the process of launching an aggressive public relations campaign to challenge the billions of dollars in oil spill settlements it is required to pay to plaintiffs relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. According to recent news reports, BP has decided to place full-age ads in three major national newspapers: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

In each ad, the oil giant intends to blame trial lawyers and politicians for encouraging Gulf Coast residents and businesses to submit inflated or even false claims for damages. The ads are meant to curry favor with the public, claiming that these inflated settlement claims are depriving genuinely harmed Gulf Coast residents of money they desperately need.

The fight over settlement payouts began when BP challenged the current methodology employed by the court-appointed claims administrator, Patrick Juneau. BP argued the methodology was unfair and led to significantly higher payouts than it anticipated. Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the oil spill litigation, ruled in April that Juneau’s formula was perfectly acceptable under the terms of the settlement agreement reached between BP and plaintiffs.

Post #6 image. 2013-05-23.jpgBP has voiced its concern about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims payments for months now, but a recent court filing indicates that the company has only lately stepped up its actions to stop the payments. According to a court filing by the oil spill claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, BP has more than doubled the rate at which it appeals claims brought by individuals and businesses under the terms of its settlement agreement.

Back in February of this year, BP disputed only about four percent of the awards decided on by Juneau. By May, that number had risen dramatically, to 9.3 percent. BP says it has stepped up its efforts to prevent such payments from being made because it says many of those claims are fictitious or overly inflated.

In addition to filing appeals for the claims settled by Juneau, BP has also launched a legal challenge against the method employed by Juneau when calculating the compensation owed to injured plaintiffs. Though the U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, who has overseen the settlement process, approved Juneau’s calculation, BP has appealed that ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Post #5 image. 2013-05-23.jpgBig news out of the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center last week when the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, revealed that more than $2 billion has been paid out to individuals and businesses who lost money as a result of the 2010 oil spill.

The payments, which are part of the multibillion-dollar settlement reached between BP and private plaintiffs, have been issued quickly. Juneau says that in total, his office has sent offers to individuals and companies totaling $3.06 billion. The number of individual claims has now risen to 162,603. Of the amount offered, just over $2 billion ($2.08 billion to be precise) has been paid out.

Juneau commended Judge Barbier for overseeing the process and said that the numbers mark yet another important milestone in the claims process. Juneau said that the claims payment process only began in June of 2012 and in less than a year more than $3 billion in claims have been determined eligible for payment. His office has worked tirelessly to ensure those who were injured in the massive oil spill have been made whole.

Post #4 image. 2013-05-05.jpgAt the end of last month, the state governments in Florida and Mississippi took the important step of suing BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. This officially includes the two states among those seeking damages from the oil company over the massive oil spill.

Both Florida and Mississippi announced their decision before the three-year deadline for filing such claims rolled around. The accident originally took place on April 20, 2010, meaning that April 20th was the last date to file suit.

Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, announced that given the considerable damage suffered by the state after the oil spill, both BP and its subcontractor, Halliburton, should be held financially accountable. Bondi said the state would try to recover money it says it lost due to a drop in tourism that occurred as a result of the oil spill. Florida’s filing accused BP and Halliburton of wanton, reckless and grossly negligent conduct and says that, as a result, the state will be seeking punitive damages due to the companies’ egregious conduct.

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