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Judge Approves Settlement in BP Class Action Suit

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:16pm
JANET McCONNAUGHEY - Associated Press - Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday gave final approval to BP PLC's settlement with businesses and people who lost money because of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has estimated it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve more than 100,000 claims by businesses and individuals from the nation's worst offshore oil spill. The settlement has no cap; the company could end up paying more or less.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier approved the settlement in a 125-page ruling issued Friday evening.

"None of the objections, whether filed on the objections docket or elsewhere, have shown the Settlement to be anything other than fair, reasonable, and adequate," he wrote.

BP said it was pleased with the settlement, which got Barbier's preliminary approval in May.

"We believe the settlement, which avoids years of lengthy litigation, is good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf and is in the best interests of BP's stakeholders," company spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. "Today's decision by the Court is another important step forward for BP in meeting its commitment to economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf and in eliminating legal risk facing the company."

The April 2010 blowout of BP's Macondo well triggered an explosion that killed 11 rig workers and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Barbier has not ruled on a medical settlement for cleanup workers and others who say exposure to oil or dispersants made them sick — just on economic and property damage claims.

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.

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 he gave preliminary approval in May, thousands of people opted out of the settlement to pursue their cases individually.

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.

A trial next year is designed to identify causes of BP's well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies involved in the disaster.

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Associated Press reporter Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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