Halliburton Co. (HAL:US) said BP Plc (BP/)’s proposed settlement with victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill unfairly creates a “collusive alliance” against the oil field services company in a scheduled multibillion-dollar trial.
“The settlement agreements will improperly align the interests of BP and the settling plaintiffs in any subsequent trial on liability in this court,” Donald Godwin, Halliburton’s lead lawyer, said in a 138-page filing yesterday that the company is seeking permission from a judge to submit in federal court in New Orleans.
BP’s deal creates an incentive for the plaintiffs who settled to change their strategy to minimize any determination of BP’s share of liability and argue for greater compensation from the other defendants, including Halliburton, Godwin said.
That “will prevent a true arms length adversarial trial,” he said.
More than 500 lawsuits by coastal property owners, tourism and fishing interests seeking damages from BP and other companies involved in the worst offshore spill in U.S. history are consolidated in New Orleans for pretrial processing. More than 4.1 million barrels of crude spilled from BP’s well after the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which was owned by Transocean Ltd. (RIG:US), and received cementing services from a Halliburton unit.
BP and a committee of lawyers representing the victims reached a partial settlement in March that would commit London- based BP to pay an estimated $7.8 billion to resolve most economic-damages claims. That deal is awaiting approval by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who oversees the consolidated spill litigation.
“Halliburton’s filing amounts to the company grasping at straws,” Steve Herman, liaison counsel for the plaintiffs steering committee, said today in an e-mail. “The court has already ruled that they have no standing to object to the settlement. The PSC will present the same case in January 2013 that it would have put on last February; there’s plenty of blame to go around for this tragedy.”
Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, said “the suggestion that the BP-PSC settlement, and the assignment of BP’s claims against Halliburton to the plaintiff class, was the product of collusion is preposterous.”
“Claims are regularly assigned as part of civil settlements, and the assignment of BP’s claims against Halliburton to the plaintiff class confers real value to the class,” Dean said today in an e-mailed statement. “The assignment is just one of the terms of the settlement that was negotiated as part of a months-long, arms-length process that involved participation by the magistrate judge.”
The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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