Plaintiffs urge judge to approve $7.8 billion BP oil spill settlement

BP Plc and lawyers representing over 100,000 individuals and businesses claiming economic and medical damages from the 2010 BP oil spill on Thursday urged a U.S. judge to approve a proposed $7.8 billion class-action settlement.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier initially approved the deal in May, but called the “fairness hearing” to weigh objections from about 13,000 claimants challenging the settlement to resolve some of BP’s liability for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

BP still faces civil and potential criminal liability charges brought by the U.S. government and U.S. states.

Barbier did not issue a final ruling at Thursday’s hearing in a New Orleans court, but he appears poised to grant final approval to the deal in the coming days, legal experts said.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees,” Barbier said at the end of the hearing, saying that some objections “were not frankly made in good faith and bordered on being frivolous.”

The BP oil spill was caused by London-based BP’s Macondo well spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days. The torrent fouled shorelines from Texas to Alabama and eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in severity.

Lawyers for some affected parties say they will “opt out” of the deal, reached in March between BP and lawyers representing plaintiffs ranging from restaurateurs, hoteliers, and oyster men who lost money from the spill to recovery workers and coastal residents claiming medical damages from the BP oil spill cleanup.

“The settlement zones are inherently unfair,” said Stuart Smith, a lawyer for Florida business owners, referring to boundaries set by the deal which are meant to compensate businesses and homeowners based on their proximity to the spill.

Barbier said he had no authority to tweak the deal as written, but merely to approve or reject it…

By Chris Baltimore — Reuters
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