From the “Nice Work If You Can Get It” Department: Being paid $100,000-plus for damages from an accident, even if neither you nor anything you own was actually damaged.
Such absurdities will be at issue soon at the Supreme Court, which as early as this coming Monday (November 17) is expected to decide whether to grant certiorari in a tremendously important challenge to one of the class-action awards involving the 2010 BP oil spill. The high court ought to take the case.
To say that the Court should indeed grant cert is not to say the Court should rule in any one direction. Both supporters and opponents of the challenge should want the issue settled definitively, to avoid continuing confusion about the rules governing class actions.
BP’s challenge to this particular class action is being carried by a legal team headed by conservative superstar lawyers Ted Olson and Miguel Estrada. The nub of their complaint is this: Dozens upon dozens of the beneficiaries approved, by a special claims administrator, to share in BP’s payments suffered absolutely no damage — either directly from or with a discernible nexus to — the Deepwater Horizon disaster. For example, there is the phone retailer whose facility was shut down by fire in 2009, long before the drilling accident of April 2010, and remained shut down throughout the whole year of 2010. Yet even though its loss of business manifestly owed nothing to the BP disaster, the administrator awarded it $135,258.94 from the settlement fund.
Then there was the attorney living 200 miles from the Gulf who had his business license revoked in 2009 (and not reinstated), but who nonetheless was awarded more than $172,000 from the BP fund. And the dentist also 200 miles from the Gulf who lost business because his building suffered water damage nearly half a year after the oil spill, having nothing to do with the spill — but who was awarded $137,518.89.