BP Gulf Spill Judge Approves Medical Benefits Settlement

BP Plc and the lead lawyers representing victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill won approval of the medical-benefits portion of a proposed $7.8 billion partial settlement of claims.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who is overseeing litigation over the spill, today granted final approval to the agreement, which provides compensation for claimants’ possible physical injuries related to the spill or the cleanup. He had granted preliminary approval of the accord in May.

Without this settlement, “plaintiffs face significant further expenses in time, money, and resources -- with no assurance of recovery,” the judge wrote in his 91-page decision.

Barbier previously approved the economic loss and property damage portion of the settlement, which resolved most private plaintiffs’ claims related to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and subsequent spill. The settlement doesn’t cover suits brought by the U.S. government and the states of Alabama and Louisiana over the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

“We believe that this settlement and the economic loss and property damage settlement, approved on December 21, 2012, are good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf and are in the best interests of BP’s stakeholders,” Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for BP, said today in an e-mailed statement.

Stephen Herman and James Roy, two of the lead lawyers representing oil-spill claimants, said they were pleased with the court’s ruling.

“Clean-up workers, coastal residents - and the Gulf Coast region at-large will benefit greatly from the myriad programs offered by the medical benefits settlement,” they said in an e-mailed statement.

Rig Disaster

The blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of crude leaking into the gulf. The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits against BP; Transocean Ltd., the Vernier, Switzerland-based owner and operator of the rig; and Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services.

The proposed partial settlement of private claims was reached March 2, days before a trial on liability for the spill was set to begin. While BP estimates the accord to be worth at least $7.8 billion, it doesn’t have a cap on potential settlement claims.

The medical benefits settlement resolves the claims of clean-up workers and residents of certain Gulf Coast beachfront and wetlands areas who contend they sustained personal injuries related to exposure to oil spilled or to chemical dispersants used during the clean-up efforts, according to court papers.

The agreement provides for medical monitoring of possible effects from the exposure, as well as “preservation of class members’ rights to sue BP for compensatory damages for physical conditions that manifest at a later date,” the company said in an Aug. 13 filing seeking approval of the pact.

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).

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