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BP oil spill appeal rejected

Published:Tuesday | December 9, 2014 | 12:01 AM

The US Supreme Court is leaving in place BP's multibillion-dollar settlement with lawyers for businesses and residents over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The justices did not comment Monday in rejecting the London-based oil giant's arguments that lower courts misinterpreted settlement terms and put BP on the hook to pay inflated and bogus claims by businesses.

The court's decision makes the economic and property damage settlement final, starting a six-month deadline for filing claims, said plaintiffs' attorney Joe Rice of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

BP PLC wanted the court to consider whether people and businesses seeking payments under the settlement included some who haven't actually suffered any injury related to the spill.

BP's Macondo well blew up on April 20, 2010, killing 11 men. An estimated 103 million to 176 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico before the mile-deep well was capped July 15, 2010. Lawyers for BP and the government agree that 34 million gallons was captured before it could pollute coastal marshes and fishing grounds.

"Today's ruling is a huge victory for the Gulf, and should finally put to rest BP's two-year attack on its own settlement," lead plaintiffs' attorneys Stephen J. Herman and James P. Roy said in an emailed statement.

The settlement doesn't have a cap, but BP initially estimated that it would pay roughly US$7.8 billion to resolve the claims. The company said it can no longer give a reliable estimate for total cost. The company, which made separate settlements for medical claims and seafood-related business claims, has paid more than US$13 billion in claims by individuals, businesses and government entities and another US$14 billion-plus on response and cleanup, according to its oil spill website.

false claims

BP remains concerned "that the programme has made awards to claimants that suffered no injury from the spill - and that the lawyers for these claimants have unjustly profited as a result," BP spokesman Goeff Morrell said in an emailed statement.

"We will therefore continue to advocate for the investigation of suspicious or implausible claims and to fight fraud where it is uncovered," he added.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals did get the method for calculating losses changed after BP argued that claims administrator Patrick Juneau wasn't correctly matching business's revenues and expenses.

The deadline for medical claims is February 12, 2015, according to the federal district court claims website. That for seafood-related businesses is past.

- AP