This past year was another defining year in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation. The year got off to a big start in January with the Phase III Clean Water Act trial between the Federal Government and BP. As we reported previously, the trial sought to determine the per-barrel penalty under the Federal Clean Water Act. The trial came to a close on Feb. 2, 2015, but at the time the parties still did not know how many barrels of oil would be used to determine the penalty. On Feb. 23, Judge Carl Barbier put that question to rest when he ruled that 3.19 billion barrels of oil had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the Macondo well. All that remained to determine the multi-billion dollar fine would be an order on the per-barrel penalty from the Phase III trial.
Meanwhile, the State of Alabama, led by Beasley Allen lawyers Rhon Jones and Parker Miller, along with Assistant Deputy Attorney General Corey Maze, were making significant progress in Alabama’s bellwether case against those responsible for the oil spill. As we have reported previously, Alabama filed the first state lawsuit and was the first State selected for trial against BP. BP mobilized an army of resources dedicated to knocking the case off track. However, due in large part to the efforts of lawyers in our firm, Alabama’s case stayed on track, State witnesses performed extremely well in their depositions, and BP’s corporate witnesses struggled under intense examination.
Feeling pressure from an imminent Phase III ruling and the impending Alabama bellwether trial, on July 2, 2015, BP, along with the Federal Government and the Gulf States, announced a record $18.7 billion settlement to resolve all governmental claims against the oil giant for the spill. The settlement represented the largest environmental settlement in United States history. Alabama’s portion of the settlement would consist of $1 billion for economic damages and $1.3 billion for projects under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment. In addition, our local government entities received good compensation under the settlement. Transocean would later agree to pay Alabama $20 million for its share of responsibility in the oil spill. All told, these settlements were landmark victories for the Gulf Region.
Finally, private litigants also fared well this year. With BP’s appeals to the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court now resolved, Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau has made tremendous progress in paying businesses and individuals in the Economic and Property Damages Settlement. As this issue was going to print, the Claim Center had made a total of $6,465,828,667 in payments, with business economic loss payments totaling $3.811 billion and seafood compensation payments totaling $1.599 billion. To put this progress in perspective, as of Dec. 30, 2014, the Claims Center had paid $4,292,978,711 with $2.330 billion going to businesses and $1.100 billion going to fishermen. In addition to the BP private settlement, Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson was appointed to allocate the Transocean and Halliburton settlements between the old class (which holds a right of assigned claims from BP) and a new, punitive damages class. The settlements totaled $1,239,750,000, and once allocated, will represent another large investment of compensation to Gulf of Mexico businesses and individuals.
We are proud of the results our firm has obtained on behalf of our oil spill clients this year. We are also grateful for the trust that so many place in the lawyers and staff from our firm who have worked on the BP litigation. If you need further information on this litigation, contact Rhon Jones or Parker Miller at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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