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Judge OKs settlement in BP class action suit

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY Published: December 22, 2012
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Barbier has not ruled on a medical settlement for cleanup workers and others who say exposure to oil or dispersants made them sick.

The agreement covers people and businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and some coastal counties in eastern Texas and western Florida, and in adjacent Gulf waters and bays.

BP has already begun paying claims before the law required it, and is doing so “in an impressive fashion,” Barbier wrote. He said the claims center processed 4,500 claims a week in November and has authorized nearly $1.4 billion in payments, and BP also has paid about $405 million on nearly 16,000 claims during a transitional process that ended June 4.

Barbier noted that lawyers' fees won't come out of settlements: BP has agreed to pay them separately.

As part of the settlement, BP will pay $2.3 billion to cover seafood-related claims by commercial fishing vessel owners, captains and deckhands. That fund is the settlement's only limit, Barbier wrote. He said that it is about five times the average industry gross revenue from 2007 to 2009 and, according to evidence provided, more than 19 times the revenue the industry lost in 2010.

After Barbier's preliminary approval in May, thousands of people opted out of the settlement to pursue their cases individually. More than 1,700 changed their minds and asked to be added back in by a Dec. 15 deadline, Barbier said.

Still unresolved are environmental damage claims brought by the federal government and Gulf Coast states against BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and claims against Switzerland-based rig owner Transocean Ltd. and Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton.

BP also has paid or agreed to pay settlements of:

A record $4.5 billion in criminal penalties, including $1.3 million in fines. U.S District Judge Sarah Vance has scheduled a Jan. 29 hearing to accept or reject that plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which also includes guilty pleas to criminal charges involving the workers' deaths and to lying about the amount of oil spilled from the blown-out well.

$525 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused it of misleading investors by lowballing the size of the spill.


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