BP OIL SPILL LITIGATION: A federal judge recently approved BP’s settlement with businesses and individuals who lost money because of the 2010 oil spill. BP estimated it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve economic and medical claims for more than 100,000 businesses and individuals. The settlement has no cap. In his decision, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier outlined that none of the objections to the settlement have shown the settlement to be anything other than fair, reasonable and adequate. BP has already begun paying claims.
SAME-SEX SEXUAL HARASSMENT: In EEOC v. Boh Bros. Construction Co. ___ F. 3d ___ (5 Cir. 2012), Kerry Woods filed suit against Boh Bros. for alleged same-sex sexual harassment by his crew superintendent. The superintendent allegedly referred to him with improper epithets and made lewd gestures in his direction. After complaining of the behavior, Woods was transferred to another construction crew. A year later, Woods was laid off for lack of work; thereafter, he filed an EEOC charge of discrimination. The EEOC brought an enforcement action.
Apparently sympathetic to Woods, the jury returned a substantial verdict for actual and punitive damages. Despite evidence that the superintendent was a “world-class trash talker” and “master of vulgarity” and proof that Woods was a primary and constant victim of this offensive behavior, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that it was not the court’s business “to clean up the language and conduct of construction sites.” Title VII is not a general civility code, and it protects employees against discrimination, not against all forms of mistreatment. The Court found insufficient evidence that the superintendent acted “on the basis of gender” in his treatment of Woods. The lower court’s judgment was vacated and the case remanded.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND ATTORNEYS’ FEES: In Bihm v. Unit Drilling Co., WCA 12-569 (11/7/12), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals increased the lower court’s award of $60.00-$104.80 to $200.00 per hour in fees where the defendant raised every possible defense imaginable in its answer so as to preclude early resolution of the single issue in the case. The Court outlined, “It is clear to this court that the defendants intended to make it as difficult and expensive as possible for the claimant to pursue his right to medical care.”