Ill Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Can Seek Trial

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Workers who developed late-onset medical conditions after cleaning up the 2010 BP oil spill have a right to a jury trial, a federal judge ruled Monday.
     U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in a five page ruling delivered Monday that claimants who were “back ended” into the oil spill litigation – that is, claimants whose symptoms did not exist at the time the medical class settlement was made – have the right to sue BP on their own terms.
     Barbier’s ruling could affect hundreds of medical claims that might end up in court in the coming years.
     When the medical class action settlement was reached almost three years ago between BP and plaintiffs the plaintiffs agreed to waive certain ailments that were the result of exposure to oil during the course of helping to clean up the oil spill. Such ailments included skin rashes and lung and sinus ailments. But plaintiffs retained their rights to sue down the road if more complicated conditions, such as cancer, arose.
     “By virtue of [the medical class action settlement], class members released many claims against BP for exposure-related injuries,” Barbier said in his ruling, “however, claims for ‘Late-Manifested Physical Injuries’ were generally exempted from this release. … If a class member wished to assert a claim for Later-Manifested Physical Injury against BP, she could, after following certain procedures.”
     Barbier’s ruling went on to say that once a claimant has decided to file a claim for injuries not handled under the terms of the settlement, “she is in control of her own lawsuit,” and may bring her claims before a jury of her peers if she wants to.
     Barbier noted that the medical settlement plaintiffs and BP arranged does not specify that backend medical lawsuits filed be “tired before the bench.”
     His ruling came in response to BP’s motion to strike a plaintiff’s request for a jury trial.
     In November Barbier ruled that claimants whose ailments from the oil spill fall under the terms of the medical class settlement must have been diagnosed by a doctor before April 16, 2012, a date outlined in the agreement.
     That ruling could bring thousands of workers out of the settlement and into backend litigation over their claims of illnesses not diagnosed until a later date.
     Many thousands of workers were involved in the cleanup of oil following the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon 50 miles off shore from Louisiana.
     Geoff Morrell, BP’s senior vice president for U.S. communications and external affairs, said “BP disagrees with the Court’s ruling and is considering its options.”

%d bloggers like this: