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BP Can't Rewrite Settlement Agreements Now, Says Judge

BP plc won't be able to recover millions that it may have been overpaid to some claimants for economic losses related to the 2010 Macondo well blowout, the court overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) ruled Wednesday.

BP has said it was forced to overpay close to 800 claimants under a formula that calculated losses without requiring revenue to be matched with expenses (In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179). BP attributed $185 million in overpayments to 208 of the claimants, and it had requested that the court require those overpayments to be returned.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of New Louisiana would have none of it. In his ruling, he quoted repeatedly from the language in BP's settlement documents that claimants were required to sign to receive payments.

"If you sign this release, that's it, it's over for you," Barbier said the company told claimants in releases. "It doesn't matter if the law changes or not, or if the interpretation of the settlement terms changes for better or worse...I don't know how you get around it."

Any attempt to recover overpayments at this point, said Barbier, "is classic hair-splitting...The only conclusion is that this language bars BP from any attempt at restitution."

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