Thursday, August 12, 2010

Damages Lawsuits Filed Against BP by Spill Victims Tests the Claims Process

Damages suits against BP to be heard in New Orleans

By Nicholas Moroni

Hundreds of lawsuits filed by spill victims seeking finanical damages from oil giant BP will be heard in a New Orleans court.

Federal judge, Carl Barbier will hear some 300 cases that have been filed by spill victims seeking reparations for financial damages allegedly suffered subsequent to the spill. BP had hoped to avoid such litigation when it agreed in June to earmark a $20 billion escrow fund for spill victims. However, the Financial Times reports the aftermath of the sealed Macondo well has all the makings of Exxon-Valdez litigation.

BP had hoped to have the cases heard in Texas (its headquarters are in Houston): perhaphs in an attempt to appear before a friendlier jury.

Judge Barbier's hearing the cases initally carried some controversy, as well. BP maintained that Barbier's presiding over the cases, would be a conflict of interest because of shares that he held in Transocean (the operator of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig) and Halliburton, which was involved in the Macondo drilling. Barbier has since sold the shares, and a Court of Appeals conceded that the sale of the shares posed no conflict.

The oil giant claimed it respected the decision, and that it "look[ed] forward to the cases proceeding as expeditiously as possibly."

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