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12 Jul 2013

Ed Crooks, Financial Times

'Orwellian' spill leaves BP in a bind [USA]

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When BP agreed a court settlement last year for victims of its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it signed up to detailed procedures for how businesses could claim compensation for lost profits, based on records of their revenues and expenses before and after the disaster. One detail left unspecified in the settlement agreement it drew up with the plaintiff’s lawyers was the precise definitions of “revenue” and “expenses” to be used for those claims. BP and its advisers…believed the terms had such obvious agreed meanings that the…document did not need to explain them any more precisely. They were wrong. Both Patrick Juneau, the Louisiana lawyer appointed to administer claims under the settlement, and Carl Barbier, the judge who has been hearing the case, have adopted interpretations that are different from BP’s. As BP argued in the Fifth Circuit appeal court…, the result threatens to be financially disastrous. It opened the door for businesses across the gulf region to claim compensation from BP…if they suffered no harm as a result of the spill…