Plaintiffs’ lawyers Wednesday questioned whether BP was leveling “outrageous and unfounded accusations” against a claims administrator for the the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in hopes that a judge would sanction BP and open new avenues for the oil giant to appeal.
BP CEO Bob Dudley has accused claims administrator Patrick Juneau of “hijacking” and “willfully misinterpreting” the settlement. Last month BP filed a motion to have Juneau removed because he had a contract with the state of Louisiana advising the government about the claims payment process of Ken Feinberg, the man in charge of compensation before the 2012 court settlement.
The attorneys representing the settlement
Juneau said in a brief filed Wednesday that no fewer than six BP attorneys and executives knew about his role as a liaison for the state before the company asked the court to let Juneau serve as independent claims administrator. Juneau also said he told BP verbally about his role as an attorney for Louisiana and did not consider it a conflict of interest because it had nothing to do with the litigation between plaintiffs and BP or a separate suit filed by the state against the oil giant.
The attorneys representing the settlement class also filed briefs in court Wednesday saying BP’s accusations against Juneau are so far out of bounds that they deserve sanctions, but quickly added, “To be clear, Class Counsel does not seek sanctions at this time.”
The plaintiffs go on to wonder in writing whether BP is doing this on purpose, to try to get Judge Carl Barbier Barbier to sanction BP and give it grounds for “some further motion practice,” presumably referring to a future argument that Barbier can no longer be fair.[quote_left author=””]BP spokesman Geoff Morrell did not respond to WWL-TV’s questions about the plaintiffs’ concerns about BP’s future strategy, but he did say that the briefs filed Wednesday by both Juneau and the plaintiffs’ steering committee could not refute BP’s arguments that Juneau must go.[/quote_left]
“Nothing in the briefs submitted by Mr. Juneau or the PSC refutes the central fact that Mr. Juneau had an unwaivable conflict that by law should have prevented his appointment as Claims Administrator,” Morrell said. “Given this conflict, as well as all of the evidence that continues to come to light concerning Mr. Juneau’s failure to ensure a claims process that is efficient, impartial, and free of corruption, he should be removed.”
Critics have said Juneau’s operation is inefficient, especially when compared with his predecessor, Feinberg. Juneau has paid 48,000 claimants in 28 months, only a fifth of the total number Feinberg paid in 22 months.
But Juneau says that criticism ignores the obstacles put in his way, and the plaintiffs say that a lot of the delays are because BP has used appeals, requests for new reviews and other legal maneuvers to delay payments.