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David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: dhammer@wwltv.com | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

NEWORLEANS- A federal judge has made a final ruling against BP denying its request to change the way certain business loss claims are handled in its multibillion-dollar settlement with private victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

This culminates an issue first exposed by WWLTV.

Since the fall, the parties in the settlement (BP and tens of thousands of private claimants) have argued about what their agreement meant for people in the construction, farming and professional service sectors. But the whole debate was done in private, via email, and not recorded in the court record.

We reported on the dispute last month. We exposed that there was an indefinite stoppage in paying those claims and that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier had ruled against BP Jan. 30, but then agreed to reconsider.

Eyewitness News discovered that an informal stay remained in place, preventing payment on those so-called 'variable profit' claims, which angered accountants, farmers, lawyers and construction companies, the primary claimants affected.

It appeared that the cost of their claims were mounting, and BP was trying to get their agreement reinterpreted long after it had been certified by the court.

Last week, court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau informed Eyewitness News that Barbier had directed him to start paying the affected claims again while he reconsidered his Jan. 30 ruling. Today, the dispute was filed into the official court record for the first time as Barbier affirmed his previous ruling against BP and in favor of Juneau's previous interpretation of the settlement.

BP tried to argue that because these industries have fluctuating profits at different times of year, they could show big losses from certain months in 2007, 2008, and 2009 as compared with the same months of 2010, even if they earned big profits in other parts of 2010. The company tried to say that these industries have 'comparable' business in different months from one year to the next, and therefore those are the months that should be used to calculate loss.

But Barbier pointed out emails by BP's own lawyer, Rick Godfrey, in which Godfrey explicitly agreed that the same months should be used to compare revenues before 2010 to revenues in the year of the spill.

Barbier made it clear that these types of claims should get the same calculation formulas as all the others. The ruling means these types of claims now must be paid the same way Juneau had been paying them -- and without implementing any new tests to determine if fluctuating profits were really due to the spill or driven by some other economic conditions.

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