BP’s attempts over the past months to dismantle the Deepwater Horizon class action Settlement Program they agreed to more than two years ago were denied by a Federal Appeals Court on Friday. BP had claimed the Program it agreed to was not being administered the way it was intended, and that the class should be de-certified because the Program Administrator was paying fictitious and overstated claims to those who did not truly suffer economic losses related to the oil spill caused by BP. The Federal Appeals Court, after considering all of BP’s arguments and evidence in the record, found such arguments wanting, and ruled that the Program as originally approved and agreed upon was fundamentally fair and consistent with federal law relative to class actions like this.
The simple truth is that only claims that meet the strict formula guidelines of the Settlement Program are being paid, and those objective formulas are the very formulas that BP represented to the District Court in 2012 as “fair” and “reasonable” to get the Program approved originally. There are no fake claims. There are only more claims than BP anticipated, which is costing them more than they had hoped to rectify the economic harms caused by their gross negligence in operating the Deepwater Horizon. Now, after nearly three months of consideration, the Court has rendered its final word, and reaffirmed Judge Barbier’s 2012 approval of the Settlement Program for the benefit of those harmed by BP.
BP has spent millions of dollars on advertising and PR in its attempts to dissuade claimants from seeking compensation under the Program. It is clear that this ruling will not slow BP down in their attempt to lower their ultimate payout. But the reality is, BP’s own negligence brought us to this point of environmental and economic devastation. Now, the company is being held responsible for its actions, and must make reparations to all valid claimants. A recent editorial in the Tampa Bay Times calls BP out, and demanded that business owners on the Gulf hold them accountable. “The courts are right to enforce the agreement and hold both the company and the claims program accountable for delivering on the promise made in the aftermath of the nation’s worst environmental disaster. It shouldn’t be torpedoed by a public relations campaign aimed at undoing an agreement one side suddenly finds unacceptable.” Once business understand the fully story, the business reason for filing a claim become more clear. BP will continue to try and sway the public to be sympathetic to them, but we should remember why we’re here in the first place.
In terms of any changes to the claims process, we do know this: Friday’s ruling affirms the class action settlement. Therefore, as we look at the Program moving forward we can be confident that any business that uses GAAP accounting (as most large companies do) will be evaluated and paid as was agreed. Those that use less formal accrual or cash accounting methods will be subject to a new set of “matching” rules to be determined by the Claims Administrator, but, those claims will be evaluated and paid. The Settlement Program is here to stay, but businesses can now act before the April 22, 2014 deadline for filing claims knowing that if they were harmed, and they meet the Program guidelines, they will be compensated for their valid economic losses. We applaud the efforts of the Courts and the Administrator as they continue work to make this Program even more objective and transparent. This Program, in any form, was and is about helping the businesses hurt by the oil spill. It’s unfortunate that BP lost sight of this.
There are only 14 weeks left to file a claim. Anyone who does not file before the current deadline of April 22nd, will be forever barred from making a claim against BP. For more information, visit ERGLawFirm.com.