BP Oil Spill Litigation – Current Status of the Litigation


As many are aware, BP entered into a Settlement Agreement to compensate citizens of areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico for losses arising from the epic oil spill in 2010.  There has been substantial litigation and appellate rulings arising from the Settlement Agreement and its enforcement.  Below is the latest as of this writing.

On March 3, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an appellate opinion affirming the district court’s ruling that the Settlement Agreement did not require proof of causation and that the Settlement Agreement did not violate various requirements of federal law, including Article III of the Constitution, Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or the Rules Enabling Act, by not requiring evidence of causation.

The appellate court reasoned that the Settlement Agreement explicitly did not require outside proof that any losses were actually caused by the oil spill.  In the court’s words, “Neither the Settlement Agreement’s terms nor its implementation ignore causation.  Instead, the parties explicitly contracted that traceability between the defendant’s conduct and a claimant’s injury would be satisfied at the proof stage, that is, in the submission of a claim, by a certification on the document that the claimant was injured by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”  Importantly, the court noted that “the end of the form requires that the claimant ‘certify and declare under penalty of perjury’ that all of the information in the claim form is ‘true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.’”

The court thus concluded, “the Settlement Agreement does not require a claimant to submit evidence that the claim arose as a result of the oil spill.  Each claimant does attest, though, under penalty of perjury, that the claim in fact was due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

A minority of the court issued a vigorous dissent to the ruling above; a similar dissent appears in the court’s denial of BP’s Peition for Rehearing En Banc on May 19, 2014.

Since that time, BP has appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court, which denied BP’s request for a stay pending appeal.  BP filed its Certiorari Petition on August 1, 2014.  The next step is for the Supreme Court to consider taking action on BP’s Cert Petition.  We shall see what happens.

In re Deepwater Horizon, 744 F. 3d 370 (5th Cir. 2014).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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