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BP Spill Judge Rejects Claims for Loss of Recreational Use

October 01, 2012

BP Plc (BP/) won’t face damages claims over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill brought by recreational users, company-branded gas station owners and businesses alleging loss of reputation, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans pruned these categories of claims from more than 500 lawsuits brought by coastal property owners, businesses and individuals alleging harm from the worst offshore spill in U.S. history. The suits are consolidated for pretrial processing before Barbier.

The estimated $7.8 billion pending settlement between BP and lawyers, which is intended to compensate economic damage claims by thousands of real estate, tourism and fishing interests, didn’t include these claims and won’t be affected by Barbier’s ruling.

Barbier dismissed the three categories of claims because applicable U.S. law allows for the recovery of damages only for the “loss of profits or impairment of earnings capacity,” he said in a 26-page ruling. He said the law doesn’t compensate “this type of emotional, non-pecuniary damage.”

Barbier said he would permit those stigma claims by owners of properties that were physically oiled by the spill or which sold at reduced prices in the months immediately afterwards.

Vacation Home

“Other claims for loss of non-commercial recreational expectations, such as a claim for loss of recreational use and enjoyment of a beachfront vacation home, are not viable under general maritime law,” he said.

Barbier threw out claims by owners of BP-branded gas stations who complained they lost business because of “customer animosity towards BP” following the spill. He said these claims also weren’t entitled to recovery under the prevailing law.

Ellen Moskowitz, BP’s litigation spokeswoman, declined comment on the ruling. David Falkenstein, a spokesman for the committee representing victims in the spill litigation, also declined to comment.

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).

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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