On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded at a cost of eleven lives. What followed was the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. In the aftermath, BP looked for a solution, ostensibly to cap its exposure and address a swirling PR disaster. BP began to actively negotiate a settlement.
On March 2, 2012, BP agreed to a detailed settlement which set forth specific criteria for recovery under the Fund created by the Agreement. In August of that year, BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to approve the settlement. The Agreement was approved.
Despite championing the settlement, BP later filed a lawsuit seeking to set aside the settlement, unless it was interpreted as suggested by BP. BP’s challenges were rejected by the Federal District Court. Thereafter, the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling in a 2-to-1 decision. BP then applied for a Petition of Writ for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court in a final challenge to the settlement.
About BP’s legal maneuvers, Samuel Issacharoff, a New York University Law Professor, said the following: “This case is about a contract that BP signed that it now wishes it hadn’t.”
One of BP’s primary complaints was that, in effect, the settlement could be interpreted to provide recovery for individuals or businesses who could not show a direct link between a financial downturn and the spill. In response, it was stated that the settlement was crafted to use objective measures to gauge whether losses are recoverable.
On December 8, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected BP’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari. As such, the settlement agreement first proposed by BP will remain in place. No higher court remains.
Under the Agreement, potential claimants have 6 months from the Supreme Court’s Petition denial to file claims.