NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A group of Gulf Coast shrimp processors asked a federal judge Monday to hold off on giving his preliminary approval to portions of BP's proposed class-action settlement of economic damage claims spawned by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The deal calls for BP to pay $2.3 billion for certain seafood-related claims, but a court filing by the American Shrimp Processors Association argues its members are unfairly excluded from that part of the settlement.
The group says the proposed formula for compensating shrimp harvesters, boat captains and others eligible for shares of the $2.3 billion is more generous than the formula that would be applied to claims by shrimp processors and other businesses that don't qualify for the seafood program.
"The two groups are part of the same shrimp supply chain and share virtually identical future economic loss risk; however, their compensation for future economic loss risks is widely disparate for a number of reasons under the proposed Class Settlement," the association's attorneys wrote.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier scheduled a hearing Wednesday on last week's request by BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee for his preliminary approval.
The association, which represents about 42 shrimp docks, processors and related companies, is asking for more time to possibly modify the settlement's terms to satisfy their objections. Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi also has urged Barbier to hold off on giving preliminary approval to the deal before "other interested stakeholders" can review and comment on its terms.
In an April 13 court filing, Bondi said the settlement seems to apply only to claims from Florida residents and businesses on the Panhandle or along the west coast of the state, possibly shutting out thousands of other claimants in other parts of the state. Bondi also expressed concern that Barbier's preliminary approval would eliminate the interim claims process.
However, the plaintiff's attorneys who brokered the deal say BP will continue to process and pay interim claims as required by law.
BP PLC estimates it will pay about $7.8 billion to resolve claims by more than 100,000 businesses and individuals who blame their economic losses on the spill unleashed by the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP's Macondo well. But the settlement doesn't cap the amount BP would pay to resolve these private claims.
John Tesvich, owner of Ameripure Oyster Co. in Franklin, La., said his oyster processing business also would be excluded from the $2.3 billion portion of the settlement. But he was keeping an open mind about what the deal's terms mean for his claim.
"I don't have all the numbers for our company," said Tesvich, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force. "It's very complicated running the numbers."
The settlement agreement doesn't resolve separate claims against BP by the Gulf states and the federal government or claims against BP's partners on the doomed Deepwater Horizon drilling project.
BP and the plaintiffs' attorneys have asked Barbier to delay trying the remaining claims until after he decides whether to give his final approval to the settlement, a decision that may not come until late this year. On Monday, Barbier set a May 1 deadline for other parties to weigh in on that issue.