BP on Thursday urged a U.S. judge to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits from Gulf Coast residents and businesses seeking economic damages from the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
A lawyer for BP argued in federal court in New Orleans that spill victims can only sue for economic losses under specific laws governing offshore spills and that lawsuits filed under other statutes should be dismissed.
The London-based oil company also said spill victims are obligated to pursue claims for resolution through a $20 billion trust fund BP established for that purpose before they can sue.
“BP’s position is not that every single claim needs to be dismissed,” Andrew Langan, BP’s lawyer, told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier at the hearing. He said claims that have been improperly filed or not yet presented to BP’s trust fund should be dismissed.
More than 4.1 million barrels of crude gushed into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s Macondo well blew out off the Louisiana coast in April 2010. Thousands of coastal tourism businesses, property owners, commercial fishing interests and seafood processors have sued BP and its contractors in about 450 lawsuits, which are gathered for joint pretrial processing before Barbier.
Environmentalists and lawyers for spill victims told Barbier that none of the economic-damage claims or defendants should be dismissed at this stage of the litigation. They asked him to allow all claims to proceed to trial.
“The defendants are trying to use OPA as a shield” to avoid or delay paying victims, Jeffrey Breit, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, said in reference to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. OPA states injured parties must submit loss claims to the responsible party before they can resort to litigation.