BP PLC asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to put on hold lower court rulings that it says would require hundreds of millions of dollars in unconstitutional payments on damage claims.
BP said it is now under orders by lower courts to pay more than $600 million to businesses and law firms for claims not traceable in any way to the April 2010 oil spill that followed the Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire.
BP asked the Supreme Court to block those orders while the company prepares and files a full appeal to the highest court.
The action was reported Thursday by SCOTUSblog, a respected online publication that tracks and analyzes Supreme Court cases.
Two years ago, BP and lawyers for Gulf Coast residents and businesses agreed to a settlement deal. It allowed payouts from a claim fund financed by BP based in some cases on a pattern of economic loss during and after the spill.
But BP has argued since then that the fund administrator improperly expanded the covered claimants to thousands who can’t prove any harm caused by BP.
BP said “it will soon file a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the validity of any such payments,” SCOTUSblog said.
“In the meantime, its filing on Wednesday asked that the latest rulings by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit be blocked until after the Supreme Court could rule on them.”
BP’s plea was filed with Justice Antonin Scalia, who handles cases coming from Fifth Circuit trial and appeals courts.
“Justice Scalia has the option of acting on his own, or sharing the issue with his colleagues,” SCOTUSblog said.
He could also seek a response from the claimants’ lawyers before he or the Supreme Court acts.
BP said in its filing that under the claims administrator’s interpretation of the class to benefit from economic damages payouts, “hundreds of millions of dollars” would have to be paid to “thousands of entities whose purported losses were not plausibly caused by the spill.”
Among the payouts, it said, would be $76 million to entities “whose entire losses clearly had nothing to do with the spill, such as lawyers who lost their law licenses and warehouses that burned down before the spill occurred,” SCOTUSblog reported.
An added $546 million would go “to claimants who reside far from the coast and are engaged in business activities that bear no logical connection to the spill, such as commodity farms that sell in a nationwide or worldwide market or contingent fee law firms,” BP told the Supreme Court.