On November 8, 2012, Judge Barbier will conduct a fairness hearing for the landmark oil spill medical, economic and property damage settlements. Almost all class actions undergo a fairness hearing of some sort before a court will grant final approval of a class action settlement, and the oil spill settlements will be no different. In their briefs to the Court, the PSC and BP have laid out extensive evidence supporting the fairness of the oil spill settlement, including testimony from some of the foremost experts throughout the various industries along the Gulf Coast, as well as from respected experts on class action procedure. While Judge Barbier does not intend to take any live testimony at the fairness hearing, we expect the PSC and BP to offer substantial proof in their arguments supporting the settlements.
There will also likely be objectors to the settlement, as cases of this magnitude predictably draw. To have standing to object to the settlement, a party must either be a class member or represent the interests of a class member. For this reason, a party cannot opt out of the settlement and also object to the settlement’s terms. Oftentimes, the objections originate from four key areas: parties that want to be in the settlement, but are excluded; parties that are in the settlement, but want to tweak it to their benefit; parties that are in the settlement, but prefer more time before they have to choose to stay in; and finally, those “professional objectors” that move from class action to class action simply to kill settlements. Unfortunately, objectors are usually comprised of the fourth category more than any other.
We believe the Court will approve the settlements. Simply stated, the settlements are unprecedented in scope and transparency, and will provide real and meaningful compensation to businesses and individuals across the Gulf region. The economic and property damages settlement allows each business to stand on its own unique financial records and specifically tailor its compensation to those records. Gulf front property owners will be able to recover for a loss of enjoyment to their property during the oil spill. The medical settlement will provide a free, 21-year medical consultation program to thousands of cleanup workers and residents, and will provide compensation and a back door litigation option in case new conditions develop later in life. More importantly, both settlements address future risks – something a claimant would have a very difficult time obtaining in traditional court.
If you have any questions about the upcoming fairness hearing, please contact Sandra Walters at 800.898.2034 or Sandra.Walters@beasleyallen.com
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