NEW ORLEANS – BP and private plaintiffs have been fighting for a year over how to interpret their own oil spill claims settlement agreement, so it’s little wonder that both sides have now repeatedly failed to agree on which claims they’re even fighting over.
U.S. District Judge Barbier is under orders from a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an injunction blocking claims payments to a “narrowly tailored” group of business loss claims involving variable profits.
Those are companies whose revenues and expenses often don’t match, which can make it look like they lost money when they actually made more during a different time-frame.
So, Barbier asked the two sides to report back to him about which claims should be put on hold so they can be re-examined.
But in an order issued Friday, Barbier groused that BP came back with a description of disputed claims that was too broad while the plaintiffs’ view of the problem was too limited. And Barbier went on to say that when he told the sides to fix the discrepancies, they missed the mark a second time.
The judge said the plaintiffs only wanted to re-examine claims by businesses that use cash-basis accounting to determine their losses, and only those in certain industries. On the other hand, BP wanted to cut off payment to all Business Economic Loss claimants until new language could be added to the settlement to establish whether a business’ losses were really caused by the oil spill and not some other factor.
Barbier now has turned the decision-making reins over to Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau, even though it was his interpretation of the settlement that BP was complaining about in the first place.
Barbier directed Juneau to keep paying all Business Economic Loss claims that are based on “properly-matched accrual-basis records” and told him to stop paying any in which the matching of revenues and expenses is an issue.
He also ordered Juneau to hold off on paying any Individual Economic Loss claims from the employees of those businesses that exhibit problems matching revenues to expenses.
Meanwhile, Barbier gave Juneau to the end of the week to lay out exactly how he’s going to establish which claims fall into the target categories.
And Barbier ordered Juneau to keep processing claims in the following categories, without exception: Seafood Compensation Program, subsistence loss claims, Vessels of Opportunity charter payments, physical damage to vessels, coastal real estate property damage, wetlands damage and property sales damage.