NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court is wading into a high-stakes dispute over the terms of a multibillion-dollar settlement of claims arising from BP's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Monday by attorneys for the London-based oil giant and for Gulf Coast businesses that say the nation's worst offshore oil spill cost them money.
BP asserts that the judge who approved the deal and a court-appointed claims administrator have misinterpreted the settlement, allowing thousands of businesses to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in payments for inflated and fictitious losses.
"The result is that thousands of claimants that suffered no losses are coming forward in ever-increasing numbers, seeking and obtaining outrageous windfalls and making a mockery of what was intended to be a fair and honest court-supervised settlement process," company attorneys wrote in their brief for the hearing.
BP says it could be forced to pay billions more in "capricious awards to uninjured claimants" if the 5th Circuit doesn't overturn rulings on the issue by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.
Plaintiffs' attorneys who brokered the deal last year counter that BP undervalued the settlement and underestimated how many claimants would qualify for payments under the terms they negotiated.
"Buyer's remorse does not alter the deal that was struck," they wrote.
BP's appeal doesn't apply to payouts to individuals.