BP wins US court reprieve over Gulf of Mexico oil spill payments


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The Independent Online

BP has won a key court victory in the US that will limit the amount of compensation the oil giant will have to pay following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.

The FTSE 100 company has been appealing against the process by which businesses have been able to make claims in the wake of the disaster.

With lawyers in the area advertising for business by claiming “there is no need to provide proof that BP caused your loss”, it believes it has already been forced to hand over $500 million to firms who suffered no actual losses from the tragedy, which resulted in  11 deaths.

BP’s complaint against the formula worked out by settlement administrator Patrick Juneau was upheld by  the New Orleans Court of Appeal last night, which ruled that a district court had “erred” by approving the methods earlier in the year.

BP originally estimated that the Gulf of Mexico spill would cost it  $7.8 billion in compensation although this increased to $9.6 billion in July.

It has so far paid out $3.78 billion to claimants, according to Juneau’s claims website. The company said today that the compensation process had “veered off course”. It added: “If properly implemented by the district court, the Fifth Circuit’s order will help return the settlement to its original, intended and lawful function — the compensation of claimants who sustained actual losses that are traceable to the Deepwater Horizon accident.”

Despite the ruling, shares in the company dropped 0.75p to 474.55p, with most investors and analysts believing there is still some way to go until the fallout of the disaster  is resolved.

BP is still waiting for the outcome of a separate civil case in New Orleans, covering local and state government economic restoration claims and damage to natural resources.

The first part of the trial, which started in February, focused on the causes of the 2010 accident as well as who should be held responsible. The second part concentrated on how many barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf.

The third part, which will start next year, will determine how much BP and related parties could have to pay under the clean water act.

The outcome of this ongoing case could result in the company having  to pay out billions more in costs if  BP is found to have been grossly  negligent.