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BP Spill Pact Should Be Approved, Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Argues

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s proposed $7.8 billion partial settlement of claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill should be given preliminary approval, a lawyer suing the company told the judge overseeing the litigation.

BP in March agreed to resolve most private plaintiffs’ claims for economic loss, property damage and spill and cleanup-related injuries. Lawyers for BP and the plaintiffs filed the accord April 18 with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, seeking preliminary approval. Barbier is considering that request at a hearing today.

“We are here today to present a fairly unique class-action settlement, actually two settlements,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Steve Herman, told Barbier. The settlement establishes two separate classes, one for economic loss and the other for any physical injuries related to the spill or the cleanup, Herman said.

The blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP; Transocean Ltd., the Vernier, Switzerland-based owner and operator of the rig; and Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services.

Not Final

“This is not a final approval of anything,” Barbier said as today’s hearing began. The proceeding is meant only to consider the request by BP and plaintiffs’ attorneys for preliminary approval, he said. “The earliest we could get final approval on this scheduled would be early November,” he said.

The proposed settlement, reached March 2, days before a scheduled trial on liability for the 2010 spill, doesn’t cover federal government claims and those of the Gulf Coast states Louisiana and Alabama.

It also excludes claims of financial institutions, casinos, private plaintiffs in parts of Florida and Texas, and residents and businesses claiming harm from the Obama administration’s moratorium on deep-water drilling prompted by the spill.

BP and the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, a group of lawyers appointed by Barbier to handle the lawsuits, asked the judge to hold a Nov. 8 fairness hearing before final approval of the accord and to postpone any trial on liability until after the hearing. BP has agreed to pay claimants before final approval of the settlement, Herman said today.

Macondo Well

The plaintiffs’ and government claims against BP’s contractors on the doomed Macondo well remain, and no new trial date has been set. A trial would cover federal and state government pollution claims, as well as cross-claims between BP and its partner companies in the Macondo site and rig.

Under the settlement, BP has assigned to the plaintiffs the company’s right to seek cleanup costs and the value of the lost oil from Transocean and Halliburton.

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

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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