Many who opted out of BP settlement made invalid requests

NEW ORLEANS — Only about half the businesses and individuals who asked to be excluded from a proposed settlement over BP’s 2010 oil spill submitted valid requests, the company and a team of plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a court filing.

A maximum of 13,123 potential claimants submitted valid opt-out requests by a Nov. 1 deadline, the filing says. A total of 25,866 asked to be excluded, but the architects of the deal said many failed to comply with the court’s requirements for submitting requests.

More than 9,000 were deemed invalid because an attorney, not the actual claimant, signed the request.

“And most of these ‘signatures’ were not even done by counsel personally; instead, they were applied using what appears to be a rubber stamp of the lawyer’s signature, which begs the question of whether even counsel — let alone the clients — executed these submissions with due consideration to each submission and each client’s facts, circumstances, and interests,” BP and plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.

Nearly 8,000 opt-out requests were submitted by Brent Coon’s Texas-based law firm without any client signatures on them, they added.

“Three years from now many class members will realize they were sucked into a deal with unkept promises and at least those who weren’t will have saved their tort remedy,” Coon wrote in a Nov. 5 email to lead plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Herman.

“Three years from now, your clients will either have relief, or they will still be sitting around waiting for you to try their cases,” Herman responded. “Personally, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect that people who participate in the Settlement Program will be a lot happier than people who have opted out.”

BP PLC estimates it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve more than 100,000 claims by businesses and individuals who say the spill cost them money.

The company and the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to give the proposed class-action settlement his final approval. Barbier didn’t immediately rule on that request following a hearing this month designed to help him determine if the deal is fair.

BP and the plaintiffs’ attorneys say the number of opt-outs and formal objections to the proposed settlement are small and shouldn’t derail it.

“This is strong evidence that the overwhelming majority of class members concur with the judgment of Class Counsel, BP, and leading experts in class action law that the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate,” they wrote.

 

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