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BP reaches a settlement in a portion of the Deepwater Horizon litigation. BP attempts to shift more blame to Transocean and Halliburton. Settlement leaves most claims unresolved.
Steffy: Settlement raises questions for victim's families.

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Late last Friday (can we say under cover of darkness...) BP reached a settlement with businesses and individual plaintiffs affected by the 2010 blowout.

In their statement, BP says the amount of the settlement is $7.8 billion and would comprise two separate agreements, one to resolve economic loss claims — including $2.3 billion toward claims related to the Gulf seafood industry — and another to resolve medical claims.

This total is to be paid from the $20 billion fund initially established after the disaster, which has already paid out an estimated $6 billion through various disbursements, including Kenneth Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

BP CEO Bob Dudley regurgitated the usual corporate boilerplate...

“The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast,” CEO Dudley said in the statement.
Blah, blah, blah... Do you have a horse, Dudds?

But the large lady vocalist isn't ready to perform just yet, because in this settlement with BP and the Plaintiff's Steering Committee (PSC - new magic acronym) not all legal items will be handled under this additional legal cover.

BP and others involved in the gusher still face civil claims from federal and state governments related to possible violation of pollution laws, and the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation.

Partners Transocean and Halliburton have not settled with business plaintiffs. (See next story...)

The trial was scheduled to start yesterday in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans, but Barbier has now delayed the start indefinitely after the one-week postponement to allow time to reach the settlement.

In a brief order, Barbier postponed that trial indefinitely. He said the settlement will “require substantial changes to the current . . . trial plan” and that remaining parties in the case will need time to “reassess their respective positions.”

Barbier had planned to sort through scores of legal issues in the trial, the first phase of which was to apportion blame among parties.

Several companies have already received settlements, but some could also see liabilities of their own.
Weatherford International, which provided the float collar used in the final cementing of the well, settled with BP last year in exchange for protection against any compensatory claims, such as harm to the local economy. Barbier then dismissed its case as to any remaining claims.

MOEX Offshore 2007, a unit of Japan’s Mitsui that owned 10 percent of the Macondo well, settled with BP and with federal and state governments.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owned a 25 percent share, settled with BP for compensatory claims, but still could be liable for civil penalties under the Clean Water and Oil Pollution acts.

BP reached a similar settlement with Cameron, which built the blowout preventer that sat on top of the Macondo wellhead and failed as the last line of defense against loss of well control.

Okay... Now that you sort of know the is the rest of the story in the next little blue block...

PSC settlement makes some of BP's legal problems less complex, but more complicated for partners Transocean and Halliburton.

The agreement reached with the Plaintiff's Steering Committee allows some liabilities to be shifted from BP and onto other entities involved in the Deepwater Horizon, most notable Transocean, the rig owner, and Halliburton, the contractor for the cementing job on the Macondo well, which failed in the blowout.

“The dynamic changes because it puts more pressure on Transocean and Halliburton to settle, and if they hold out, it presents more ways for plaintiffs to recover what they’re owed,” said Steve Herman, co-liaison counsel for the steering committee.


“By assigning their claims against the subcontractors to the PSC, BP has effectively allied itself with the private plaintiffs represented by the PSC,” said Blaine LeCesne, a torts law professor at Loyola University. “They will now seek to place the lion’s share of the blame on Transocean and Halliburton rather than on BP.”

But it wasn't just us! It wasn't! It was those... those other guys! It's their fault! We're victims!
In announcing the settlement late Friday, BP said the deal provides that “to the extent permitted by law, BP will assign to the PSC certain of its claims, rights and recoveries against Transocean and Halliburton for damages not recoverable from BP.”

The move advances BP’s argument in lawsuits against Transocean and Halliburton that they were partially responsible for the disaster.

BP is using this theory of shared responsibility as one of its main legal defenses against federal allegations that its decisions constituted gross negligence – which can nearly quadruple some fines.

The fox guards the henhouse, and the 8000-pound gorilla wins...
Transocean spokesman Jared Allen said the facts of the case are unchanged, and the offshore drilling giant is prepared to go to trial if necessary.

“BP’s settlement with the plaintiffs certainly didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and the terms of the financial arrangement probably won’t come as much of a surprise either,” Allen said.

Halliburton officials did not respond to requests for comment.

But you know that they are pissed. They (Halliburton/Transocean) are getting the fetid end of the legal stick, but damn... I can't bring myself to support Chaneyburton. I couldn't get that drunk...

The whole settlement/not-settlement/big vs. little may indeed be too big to kill now. But the lawyers win even if no one else does...

BP settlement leaves most complex claims unresolved.

The $7.8 billion payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims. This figure is not capped (we can be thankful for small favors, I guess) so there is a possibility that it final total could be higher.

But the amount is significantly less than that BP can afford, and probably won't require BP to spend money that it had not already agreed to pay.  And the $7.8 billion figure represents only a part of BP’s 2011 profits, which were nearly $26 billion.

More yada, yada, yada from the Duddster...

"From the beginning, BP stepped up to meet our obligations to the communities in the Gulf Coast region, and we've worked hard to deliver on that commitment for nearly two years,” said Bob Dudley, BP’s CEO, in a statement issued Friday night. "The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast."
As Friday's decision splits off large chunks of business and individual claims, the question of environmental damage remains, and this could be most expensive for BP and partners, if the actions are seriously - and correctly - pursued.
Friday’s settlement effectively split off individual claims from the thornier issues of assessing and paying for long-term environmental damage. Those questions will begin to be addressed in the civil suits brought by several states and the U.S. government under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act alleging BP acted negligently.

After the spill, several government investigations found that BP and its contractors made careless missteps in the final hours of drilling its complex oil well in mile-deep water.

The Department of Justice also is conducting a criminal investigation into the Gulf spill and may bring charges under the Clean Water Act. Officials have said that they are weighing whether to prosecute individual BP executives for decisions made in the days leading up to the deadly explosion, as well as charges against the corporation itself.

The actions triggered by the Gulf spill capped more than a decade of accidents and criminal and civil cases brought against BP, following several oil spills in Alaska, the deadly explosion of the company’s refinery in Texas City, and a scandal in which BP was accused of manipulating propane prices.

BP’s track record may make it vulnerable to the ultimate civil sanction: a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to disqualify the company from future federal contracts including leases to drill, a penalty called debarment.

BP’s facilities in Prudhoe Bay, where the company spilled 200,000 gallons of oil in 2006, as well as the company’s aging Texas City refinery, where an explosion killed 15 workers in 2005, already have been debarred. At issue now is whether the federal government will cancel contract eligibility for the entire company, penalizing it for a pattern of wrongdoing and exhibiting a “culture of corporate non-compliance.” perp walks for Tony and Dudds, and huge, gigantic, bankruptcy-producing mega-fines would be nice.

Never gonna happen... Better set the sights a teeny bit lower...

BP settlement may raise questions for victims’ families.

Loren Steffy relates how - even after an "acceptable" monetary settlement - questions will often still remain about how, and why, injuries and deaths occurred.

As Katherine Rodriguez read about the tentative settlement between BP and thousands of businesses and individuals, the memories flooded back.

She remembered driving to Galveston for the first day of a different legal proceeding with the same defendant. Her family was suing BP after her father, Ray Gonzalez, was killed at BP’s Texas City refinery in the fall of 2004.

It was March 23, 2005.


Settlements like the one BP reached Friday can be a mixed blessing for those who lost loved ones in the accident or escaped the burning rig with their lives. About a dozen such cases are still pending, and it wasn’t immediately clear how many would be included in Friday’s settlement.

Those who do settle may feel some comfort, a sense of closure, a readiness to move on, Rodriguez said. But they may also find, as she did after her own settlement, questions linger.

“All the documents, all the testimony — they’ll never see that,” Rodriguez said. “They’ll have some peace and closure, and they’ll never have to go through the heart-wrenching testimony, but they also don’t get to hear the truth. That’s not complete closure.”

The Deepwater Horizon case is so massive that new evidence may emerge in spite of the settlement. The government says it intends to aggressively pursue its claims, and it may still seek criminal charges. BP’s partners in the ill-fated well continue to fight over culpability for the disaster.

Please take a few minutes to read Steffy's piece. It's worth your time.

BP official appeals to avoid medical exam.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said Donald Vidrine should undergo a medical exam. Vidrine was one of BP’s well site leaders on the Deepwater Horizon and he has claimed medical problems should prevent him from being questioned. Rig owner Transocean Ltd. wants to question him.

On Monday, Vidrine appealed Barbier’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A trial over the spill was scheduled to start Monday, but it was delayed indefinitely after a partial settlement was reached.

And finally, the multi-billion-dollar, eternally universal question...whose pockets will be fatter? My bet wouldn't be on the people most affected...

BP settlement raises numerous questions for oil spill victims. (An editorial from the New Orleans Times-Picayune and something else worth a look...)

The gist of the editorial:

Indeed, there are questions as to whether the new compensation process and the opt-out time line are being designed to retain the majority of claimants -- even those who avoided the lawsuit -- in order to grow the pool of plaintiffs and the potential legal fees for the plaintiff steering committee.

Judge Barbier should make sure that's not the case.

A fair settlement and an expedient compensation process is what those hurt by the spill need and deserve. BP and the steering committee must address these and other questions to demonstrate that the agreement they reached last week meets those standards.

Ya think?
PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!
Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
2-28-12 01:59 AM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - BP trial delayed a week for settlement talks - BP Catastrophe AUV #581 peraspera
2-21-12 06:19 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - Before "The Trials", the Settlements Begin - BP Catastrophe AUV #580 Lorinda Pike
2-17-12 06:30 PM GW Friday Block Party: Sports Edition Phil S 33
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.
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