A Series Of Settlements In 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A committee of lawyers representing businesses and individuals claiming damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill announced a $211 million settlement Wednesday with Transocean Ltd., owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

         In a separate development, oil giant BP — which leased the rig from Transocean — reached settlements resolving years of complicated spill-related litigation with Transocean, and with contractor Halliburton, which did cement work on the rig before it exploded in April 2010.

         Court rulings have put the brunt of responsibility for the disaster on BP. But Transocean and Halliburton also were found to have some responsibility.

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         The accident killed 11 workers and sent oil spewing into the Gulf for 87 days.

         The nearly $211.8 million settlement that Transocean reached with the Plaintiffs Steering Committee will involve two classes of businesses and individuals. One class is already part of a settlement BP reached with plaintiffs in 2012. The other is a new "punitive damages class" that for various reasons was not included in the BP settlement, perhaps because its members opted out or because they were not deemed by the courts to be eligible.

         Halliburton reached a similar settlement with plaintiffs, for $1 billion, last year.

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         "We applaud Transocean for adding to the settlement funds established in the Halliburton settlement to help compensate people and businesses for their losses," attorneys Stephen J. Herman and James P. Roy, leaders of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, said in a prepared statement.

         Notice of the preliminary settlement agreement with plaintiffs, which does not involve BP, has not yet been filed in federal court in New Orleans, where U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier presides over the oil spill cases.

         As for the other settlements, Halliburton released a brief statement saying its agreement with BP settles which business will cover various damages and includes "dismissal of all claims against each other" arising from the spill.

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         Transocean said its settlement includes an agreement that BP will indemnify Transocean for natural resource damages, while Transocean will indemnify BP for injury claims by Transocean employees. The settlement also includes a $125 million payment from BP to cover legal fees, Transocean said.

         "We are pleased to have resolved with Halliburton and Transocean the final remaining disputes stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident," BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said in an emailed statement. "We have now settled all matters relating to the accident with both our partners in the well and our contractors."

         Halliburton and Transocean also hailed the settlements.

         "We are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution with BP, our valued customer, that allows us to close another chapter in the Deepwater Horizon case for Halliburton," Dave Lesar, chairman and CEO of Halliburton, said in a news release.

         Transocean called its settlement a step toward renewing its partnership with BP. "Most importantly, while the litigation is finally coming to an end, it is important that we, as an industry, continue to remember the eleven men who lost their lives in this tragedy, and keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers," Jeremy Thigpen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transocean, said in his statement.

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill




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