Activists hold signs during a protest in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building on the first day of the 2013 trial over the Deep Water Horizon oil rig spill in New Orleans. 11 men were killed during the accident and over 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Photograph by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
By Geoffrey Smith
September 25, 2014

BP Plc (BP) suffered another defeat late Wednesday in its attempts to limit its liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, as a New Orleans court rejected its request for the repayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in “excess” compensation.

District Court Judge Carl Barbier threw out BP’s suit, which built on earlier victories that had forced the administrator of compensation claims to scale down some of the awards to businesses that were hit by the incident, on the grounds that a clause in the settlement deals protected them against efforts by BP to claw the money back later.

BP said it would appeal the ruling, saying that many claimants had been paid money for losses they didn’t actually suffer.

“No one disputes that the claimants whose windfalls the Court has now upheld have been paid money they didn’t deserve for losses they didn’t suffer,” BP said in a statement. “For BP to have asked for the return of that money was not contrary to the release or any other part of the agreement – it was an attempt to reach the only fair outcome.”

The ruling is the latest setback for the British company in its efforts to stem the losses from the fatal explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that caused the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Earlier this month, the New Orleans court had ruled the company had been “grossly negligent” ahead of the incident, an interpretation that raised the ceiling for its liability by another $18 billion on top of the $42 billion in charges the company has already taken.

The action to reclaim excess compensation represents only a relatively small part of that total liability. BP had expected the settlement with affected businesses to cost $7.8 billion, but now thinks it will cost “significantly” more than $9.2 billion.

BP’s shares opened down 0.7%, underperforming the broader U.K. market.




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