Supreme Court denies BP’s petition to review settlement case

HOUSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied BP’s request for the court to review the 2012 oil spill settlement it reached with thousands of Gulf Coast businesses and residents in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The decision handed a defeat to the British oil giant after more than a year of legal fights over who can join the multibillion-dollar pact. BP has alleged the office that runs the settlement program is doling out money to “vast numbers” of claimants who weren’t financially harmed by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP in August had asked the Supreme Court to alter the settlement to require claimants to tie their damages directly to the spill, arguing the spill claims office was misinterpreting the settlement and contradicting class-action law by allowing certain claimants to join the accord even though they couldn’t trace their damages to BP’s actions.

On Monday, BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said after the Supreme Court’s decision, the company is still “concerned the program has made awards to claimants that suffered no injury from the spill — and that the lawyers for these claimants have unjustly profited as a result.”

“On behalf of all our stakeholders, we will therefore continue to advocate for the investigation of suspicious or implausible claims and to fight fraud where it is uncovered,” Morrell said. “We hope to prevent further exploitation of our commitment to compensating all those legitimately harmed by the spill.”

BP’s petition to the Supreme Court was an attempt to rewrite the settlement it had struck two years ago, said Joe Rice, an attorney who has represented plaintiffs in the civil case against BP. He said the Supreme Court’s decision will clear up uncertainty around the settlement program and probably allow the Deepwater Horizon claims office to accelerate its work.

“Today’s ruling is a huge victory for the Gulf, and should finally put to rest BP’s two-year attack on its own settlement,” said Stephen Herman and James Roy, co-lead attorneys representing claimants, in a written statement. “With its order, the Supreme Court held — as had the lower courts — that BP must stand by its word and honor its contract.”

BP had claimed more than $600 million in illegitimate payments had gone to claimants who weren’t harmed by the spill. A federal district court in New Orleans and the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals had upheld the settlement earlier this year. BP has paid more than $4 billion in claims through the settlement program so far.

Now that Supreme Court has rejected BP’s appeal, the spill claims office will be able to establish a final date to file a claim, said Patrick Juneau, the claims administrator who runs the settlement program, in a written statement.

“I have a job to do and with the Supreme Court denying BP’s writ application, I will continue to review, process and pay legitimate claims in accordance with the settlement agreement,” Juneau said.