NEW ORLEANS (CN) - BP and attorneys for more than 100,000 people who sued it have handed a federal judge hundreds of pages of documents relating to settlements of economic and medical claims from the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Friday will be the second anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which in ensuing weeks dumped 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
One proposed settlement agreement relates to economic and property damages suffered by more than 100,000 individuals and businesses; the other includes settlement terms for plaintiffs' medical claims.
Two class actions filed in New Orleans Federal Court this week by the plaintiff steering committee outlined the classes for settlement.
The general terms of the proposals remain the same as in the agreement in principal reached in March, including $7.8 billion in payments from BP, according to the documents filed in Federal Court on Wednesday.
In the new filings, BP and plaintiff lawyers call the agreements a "compromise."
The parties' joint motion in support states: "As in any settlement, neither side will receive everything it wants - not BP, which believes that plaintiffs' claims are subject to considerable litigation risk, and not the PSC [Plaintiff Steering Committee], who maintain that they would one day obtain larger awards if their claims were to proceed to trial. On balance, however, the agreement creates a comprehensive compensation system, and thus represents a resolution that is more than fair, reasonable, and adequate when judged against the standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23."
The settlement proposal will require U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's approval.
The $7.8 billion payout would make it one of the largest class-action settlements in history. There is no cap, and the ultimate payout could be more or less than BP projects.
The agreements include $600 million in attorney's fees for several hundred lawyers involved in the litigation.
The settlement would bring an end to civil litigation from private plaintiffs seeking property damages and personal injury claims.
Civil litigation with the federal government and Gulf states, however, has yet to be resolved, and the Department of Justice is continuing its investigation into criminal proceedings.
The $600 million in attorneys fees is to come from BP, not from client settlements, according to Jim Roy, one of the lead plaintiff attorneys.
The plaintiff steering committee filed two new federal class actions this week, which include the lead plaintiffs and class terms related to the settlement agreements.
One, Bon Secour Fisheries Inc. et al. v. BP Exploration & Production Inc. et al. (civil docket number 12-cv-00970) pertains to property and economic damages.
The second, Kip Plaisance et al. v. BP Exploration & Production et al. (docket 12-cv-00968) outlines the medical class and terms of the medical settlement agreement.
Tony Buzbee, a plaintiff attorney not on the plaintiff steering committee, who represents 15,000 oil spill clients, spoke favorably of the proposed settlements.
"Any settlement that provides compensation for victims of exposure and sets aside monies for future medical treatment I would look upon favorably," Buzbee said in an email to Courthouse News.