Originally posted by Emily Pickrell - Houston Chronicle - October 10, 2012
A judge has refused to extend a Nov. 1 deadline for prospective plaintiffs to opt out of a proposed settlement of economic claims against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Some prospective claimants argued that they didn’t have enough information to decide whether to opt out, since many have not received settlement offers from the court-supervised Deepwater Horizon Claims Center created as part of the proposed deal.
“At this time any extension would be premature and unnecessary,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrote in an order issued on Tuesday morning.
The settlement would resolve legal claims by shrimpers, property owners and others who say they suffered as a result of the blowout of BP’s Macondo well, which destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killed 11 workers and triggered a five million barrel oil spill.
Barbier has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 8 to determine the fairness of the proposed settlement.
Three Florida plaintiffs, Triton Diving Services, Dauphin Island Property Owners Association and Recreation Investments, had asked for the opt-out deadline to be replaced with one that would allow plaintiffs to opt out at a much later stage of the spill-related litigation. They expressed concern about waiving their right to sue without knowing the value of the settlement offer.
Barbier previously moved the deadline back from Oct. 1.
The Deepwater Horizon Claims Center, which is approving and processing claims, reported Friday that it has made nearly $68.7 million in settlement payments. It replaced the Gulf Coast Claims Facility shortly after BP and a steering committee representing plaintiffs announced that they had reached an agreement. Payments have been made in 1,784 of the nearly 65,000 claims submitted, the claims center reported.
Barbier also denied a request by individual Florida plaintiffs to nullify agreements some made not to sue after they agreed to payments through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Attorney Brian Donovan, representing several individual plaintiffs, had argued that the officials in the earlier claims mechanism had pressured more than 80 percent of claimants who received funds to sign a release, rather than receiving interim payments, as required by law.