According to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier yesterday in New Orleans, BP will not have to make payouts any time soon to more than 95 percent of the workers hurt while cleaning up after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If the workers seek compensation for physical injuries, each will need to file suit against the company, as they no longer qualify for automatic compensation under the company’s medical-benefits settlement. Judge Barbier expressed frustration that the vast majority of an estimated 20,000 individuals injured from exposure to crude oil and dispersants during the spill weren’t covered by a deal he and others thought would end such litigation. BP argued that all individuals with exposure-related injuries diagnosed after an April 2012 cutoff date must sue for compensation under contract provisions reserved for latent injuries, such as cancer, which might develop years after someone comes into contact with the spill.
Barbier said that in the final draft of the settlement, wording was altered slightly so it denied automatic compensation for ailments that weren’t formally diagnosed by a specific series of medical tests before the cutoff date. Barbier told BP’s lawyers their interpretation was “troubling” and that he did not realize the implications of the wording when he signed off on the settlement. “It is rather strange that the court would approve a settlement,” Barbier said, repeating himself from the hearing, “that really doesn’t settle thousands of claims and requires them to file another lawsuit. I mean, it doesn’t sound like much of a settlement.”
Read full coverage from Claims Journal here.