Supreme Court shuts down BP's latest attempt to avoid pay-outs

The Court is declining to hear BP's settlement appeal, it announced Monday

Published December 8, 2014 5:43PM (EST)

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico.     (AP/Gerald Herbert)
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP/Gerald Herbert)

BP keeps trying to find ways to get out of paying in full for the damage it caused to the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and keeps getting shut down. Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the oil company's appeal to a ruling that, as stipulated in its own settlement agreement, it has to pay the claims of businesses who say they lost money from the spill, regardless of whether or not they have proof.

“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,” Stephen Herman and James Roy, co-lead attorneys representing claimants, said in a statement. “With its order, the Supreme Court held -- as had the lower courts -- that BP must stand by its word and honor its contract.”

In the appeal, BP claimed that it has already paid out over $600 million to “vast numbers” of people who couldn't prove they were directly impacted by the spill; in total, it's paid out about $4 billion. Separate from that, the company's on the line for up to $18 billion in Clean Water Act penalties after a federal judge ruled that its "gross negligence" was responsible for the disaster -- BP's trying to outmaneuver that one by asking the judge to cap the potential penalties at $12.4 billion, cutting its maximum liability by a third. It's set aside $43 billion, in all, to cover clean-up, settlements and fines.

In declining to hear the appeal, the Court is effectively holding up the March ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. In that decision, judge Leslie Southwick wrote that "there is nothing fundamentally unreasonable about what BP accepted but now wishes it had not.”

The company, true to form, isn't giving up. "We nevertheless remain concerned that the program has made awards to claimants that suffered no injury from the spill," Geoff Morrell, BP America's Senior Vice President of U.S. Communications and External Affairs, said in a statement following the Supreme Court's announcement. "On behalf of all our stakeholders, we will therefore continue to advocate for the investigation of suspicious or implausible claims and to fight fraud where it is uncovered."

By Lindsay Abrams

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Bp Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill Supreme Court