BP plc on Wednesday won preliminary approval for an estimated $7.8 billion settlement to resolve more than 100,000 court claims stemming from the Macondo well blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The blowout destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig servicing the well and killed 11 men.

The proposed accord was reached in early March between BP and the Plaintiff's Steering Committee (PSC) to resolve most of the "legitimate economic loss and medical claims" from the blowout, which subsequently destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig servicing the well and killed 11 men (see Daily GPI, March 6). The PSC has acted on behalf of individuals and businesses in multi-district litigation (MDL) proceedings pending in New Orleans (MDL 2179).

In separate rulings U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans ruled in favor of an agreement for economic and property claims, as well as one for medical claims (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179). The ruling allows the oil spill class action lawsuit to proceed.

The proposed settlement is "fair, reasonable, adequate, entered in good faith, free of collusion and within the range of possible judicial approval," Barbier said after granting preliminary approval. A fairness hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8 to consider a final settlement, despite a BP request to delay a trial on liability for the two-year-old spill.

BP's agreement to pay for economic losses, property damages and injuries does not cap the amount, which may increase based on the number of claims filed by the victims. The agreement also does not include any federal or state claims, nor does it include criminal or civil penalties that may result from investigations. Those harmed by the deepwater drilling moratorium also are not part of the settlement agreement. Spill victims were allowed to opt out of the settlement and file separate lawsuits against BP.

Those "who opt out or who possess reserved claims will be able to pursue those claims effectively outside" the settlement under the terms of the agreement, Barbier said.

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