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Court turns aside BP payments protest

The Supreme Court, after pondering the issue for nearly two weeks, on Monday turned down a plea by the British oil giant BP PLC to spare it from having to pay out more than $600 million for economic damage claimed to have been done by the massive oil spill from a BP offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

BP has been planning to appeal a series of lower-court rulings creating formulas for damage awards for harms attributed to the spill.  Although it had agreed to a settlement deal, it has been arguing that some of the awards under that agreement are simply unjustified.

The company’s appeal will contend that it is unconstitutional for damages to be ordered when the claimed harm cannot be traced directly to the oil spill itself.  The fact that the Supreme Court refused to block lower court rulings does not necessarily mean it will also turn down a BP appeal, when it comes up, perhaps at the Court’s next Term.

BP had filed its request for delay of the economic damages payments with Justice Antonin Scalia, who serves as the Circuit Justice for the Fifth Circuit, from which the appeal hails.  He referred it to the full Court for action, leading to Monday’s denial order.  Technically, the plea was for a recall and postponement of the Fifth Circuit’s mandate upholding BP’s duty to pay.

Outside of its courthouse pleas, BP has been running a series of full-page advertisements in major newspapers, protesting what it considers to be the unfairness of the spill damages process as it has developed.

That issue has been pressed before the Court several times in recent years, but the Court has not yet agreed to provide a definite answer.


Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Court turns aside BP payments protest, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 9, 2014, 12:27 PM),