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BP Asks Judge to Delay Consolidated Oil Spill Suits

BP Plc asked a federal judge in New Orleans to require virtually all oil-spill victims to exhaust the economic damage claims process run by independent administrator Kenneth Feinberg before they’re allowed to sue.

Requiring victims to first present their claims to the so-called Feinberg Fund, through which BP agreed to pay as much as $20 billion in spill-related damages, could delay the start of litigation against BP for months while administrators sort out which claims qualify for payment.

“These plaintiffs are not even entitled to be in court until at least 90 days after presentment and (if applicable) denial of their claims’’ by the Feinberg-administered fund, said Don Haycraft, a lawyer for BP, in papers filed today in federal court in New Orleans.

The litigation should be delayed until the “bedrock issue of whether a large number of the plaintiffs should even be before the court’’ is resolved, Haycraft said.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing more than 300 consolidated oil-spill damages cases on behalf of thousands of fishing, tourism and real estate interests seeking potentially billions of dollars, has scheduled a hearing on BP’s proposal for Sept. 16. BP’s request is opposed by spill victims.

The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 2:10-md-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

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