NEW ORLEANS — Over BP's objections, a federal appeals court on Friday upheld a judge's approval of the company's multibillion-dollar settlement with lawyers for businesses and residents who claim the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost them money.
BP has argued that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau have misinterpreted settlement terms in ways that would force the London-based oil giant to pay for billions of dollars in inflated or bogus claims by businesses.
During a hearing in November before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a BP lawyer argued that Barbier's December 2012 approval of the deal shouldn't stand unless the company ultimately prevails in its dispute over business payments.
But the divided panel ruled Friday that Barbier did not err by failing to determine whether the class of eligible claimants included individuals who haven't suffered injury related to the spill.
Affirming Barbier's initial ruling, the court said in its 48-page majority opinion that it can't agree with arguments raised by BP and others who separately objected to the settlement.
One of the appellate judges, Emilio Garza, disagreed with the majority in a 14-page dissent.
Plaintiffs' lawyers have argued that BP simply underestimated how many claimants would be eligible for payments.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday that the company "is assessing its legal options."