Immediate Medical Payments to be Requested by BP Spill Victims

By Margaret Cronin Fisk and Laurel Calkins | September 24, 2014

All oil-spill cleanup workers injured during BP Plc’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster should get paid medical compensation now instead of being forced to sue for help, victims’ lawyers will tell a U.S. judge at a hearing that began today in New Orleans.

Workers who were diagnosed with ailments after April 2012 contend the company is trying to alter terms of the medical- benefits part of a global settlement with most private party plaintiffs to save as much as $1.2 billion. Their lawyers plan to ask U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to reverse an earlier ruling that the settlement didn’t automatically cover them.

“The entire point of the settlement was to efficiently compensate large numbers of existing exposure injuries and to bring them to a close,” Steve Herman, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, said in court papers.

BP has countered that it hasn’t revised any settlement terms. All individuals with exposure-related injuries diagnosed after the April 2012 cutoff date must sue for compensation under provisions reserved for latent injuries, such as cancer, which might develop years after someone comes into contact with the spill, BP contends.

The April 2010 Macondo well blowout and explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident led to thousands of lawsuits against BP and its contractors: Transocean Ltd., owner of the drilling rig that blew up, and Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services.

2012 Accord

BP reached a $9.2 billion settlement in 2012 with most private-party plaintiffs.

The company had taken a $43 billion charge to cover all the costs related to the spill, according to a July 29 earnings statement. The ultimate cost is “subject to significant uncertainty,” London-based BP said.

Barbier today will also consider BP’s request for restitution of money overpaid to plaintiffs claiming economic damages. The court revised the method for calculating such damages after the company paid multiple claims.

BP overpaid some claimants millions of dollars and wants the money back “as a matter of equity and fairness,” Geoff Morrell, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement before the hearing.

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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