In a just released legal brief, lawyers for plaintiffs who suffered economic losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster have accused BP of violating court ordered confidentiality requirements as well as specific provisions of the landmark 2012 Settlement Agreement which protect the sanctity of the claims process. BP denies the allegations.
In a filing unsealed today, Co-Lead Class Counsel Steve Herman alleges that BP has had secret, improper and unilateral access to confidential claimant data since the very early days of the compensation program. If confirmed, such access would provide BP with unlimited data from which to file questionable appeals and otherwise attempt to manipulate the Claims Administration’s payment policies.
Importantly, BP has made much of its claim that had the company better understood how payments were being calculated at the outset of the compensation program, it would have objected earlier. It now appears that BP may have had such one-sided, insider access since July 2012, the very month the first payments were made. Hence, the company’s protestations feigning surprise about how the program was being administered now ring hollow.
BP’s unilateral access to confidential claimant data and supporting documentation undermine the integrity of the program and the agreed upon “claimant friendly” filing environment. This unfair advantage has provided BP with an ability to influence claim payment policies, both globally and specific to certain claimants, as well as vilify businesses participating in the process. If these allegations are verified, this is a travesty of justice on an unprecedented scale.
Last night BP filed a response to Class Counsel’s allegations. BP asserts that language in the Settlement Agreement allows the company access to predetermination, claim and claimant specific information. While I disagree that the Settlement Agreement and subsequently issued Confidentiality Order permit such access, I know that was not the intent of the parties and certainly not the understanding of claimants and their representatives.
As a plaintiff attorney, Tom Young has been at the forefront of some of the Nation's worst disasters. In 2015, he was judicially appointed to represent over 200,000 plaintiffs in an allocation proceeding involving a $1.24 billion settlement with Deepwater Horizon contractor Halliburton and rig owner Transocean. Currently, he's focused on representing numerous communities across the country that have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic and are now seeking damages from drug manufacturers and distributors.