Last week a significant development for BP Claimants occurred when Judge Carl Barbier issued final approval of the Economic and Property Damages Settlement. This has been a long-awaited step in ensuring recovery for the thousands of Gulf Coast Residents who suffered losses in the wake of the 2010 oil spill.
The ruling came down on December 21 after months of negotiations and work between BP and plaintiffs’ representatives. The preliminary settlement was reached in March of this year and it has taken the last several months to finalize the details of the agreement and arrive at final approval from the Court. The last few months have been particularly eventful as the Court has received objections from hundreds of potentially affected claimants; handled opt-out requests from those class members who do not wish to be bound by the Settlement; and held a fairness hearing to address final arguments related to approval of the Settlement.
The primary finding of the Court on this occasion is simply that the Settlement which was reached in March and then amended in May is “fair, reasonable and adequate”, which is what is required by the law. In reaching this decision, the Court evaluated a series of factors including: whether there was fraud or collusion; the complexity, expense and likely duration of litigation; the stage of the proceedings and amount of discovery completed; the probability of plaintiffs’ success and the range of possible recovery; and the opinions of class counsel, representatives and absent class members.
Throughout its order, the Court also frequently drew attention to the many features of this Settlement that are plaintiff-friendly, highlighting in particular the level of transparency that is built into the Settlement and the claims procedures. The Court also highlighted the administration of the Settlement Program and the support that is offered to claimants to aid them in understanding and preparing their claims.
The ruling effectively overrules the many objections that were filed—both by class members and non-class members—with the Court in August. It also means that the processing of claims under the terms of the Settlement will continue as they have since June of this year.