The following is an opinion piece reposted with permission from attorney Joe Rice, one of the lead negotiators of the BP Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Class Action Settlement.
Next week will mark eight months since claims payments through the Deepwater Horizon Settlement’s Business Economic Loss program were halted due to an October 2013 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in which Judge Barbier was instructed to craft a “narrowly-tailored injunction” that subsequently stopped payouts.
To add insult to injury, during this time, BP continued placing costly full page ads in major media outlets and throwing legal wrenches at every turn, crying fraud in the claims system.
That’s eight months since countless businesses, families and people throughout the Gulf Coast have lost the ability to have their claims paid while their livelihoods have continued to be put on hold.
Another step closer: Court makes BP live up to agreement
We are seeing some progress justifying the continued fight against BP’s objections. On Monday, May 19, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-5 to deny BP’s attempts to avoid its responsibly under the Settlement Agreement. The Fifth Circuit refused to rehear BP’s appeals, confirming the certification of the class and that the Settlement Agreement appropriately provides standards for proving causation that meet all of the constitutional requirements.
Put simply, the Fifth Circuit told BP to live up to the agreement it made and move forward—exactly what plaintiffs’ counsel has been saying from the beginning and a strong reinforcement of the civil justice system.
As expected, two days later, BP released a statement saying that it will seek review of the court’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and, in the meantime, that the suspension of payments should continue.
BP’s request to stay the mandate was turned down by the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday, May 27, and a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on Wednesday, May 28, that it will not stop payments while BP appeals to the Supreme Court. This means that the Claims Center can soon begin operating again. However, having been delayed for this long, it will take some time before it is in a position to start funding settlements again, but at least another hurdle in this process has been leapt successfully.
Policy 495 is still an issue
At the same time, however, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the appellate process did provide that there had to be some type of matching of expenses to revenue for at least some of the Business Economic Loss (BEL) claims. This has resulted in the Claims Administrator issuing a court-approved policy known as Policy 495. It’s my opinion that Policy 495 is not consistent with the Settlement Agreement, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Class Counsel has already filed a motion to reconsider Policy 495 with the District Court.
We’re making progress
There is potential light at the end of this terrible tunnel that has taken lives and livelihoods. We remain committed to continuing to do everything we can to move forward with each and every claim. BP can only stall the system for so long and, no matter what they throw at the courts next, we’ll continue to fight for your rights.