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BP Exploration & Prod. v. Claimant ID 100281817

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

March 20, 2019, Filed

No. 18-30394

Opinion

 [*286]  ANDREW S. OLDHAM, Circuit Judge:

An NBA player named David West negotiated a contract with the New Orleans Hornets before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He received every penny specified in that contract both before and after the spill. Still, the Claims Administrator for the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement awarded West almost $1.5 million in "lost" earnings. The Settlement Appeal Panel affirmed, and the district court denied discretionary review. We reverse.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded [**2]  on April 20, 2010. At that time, David West played professional basketball for the New Orleans Hornets (now known as the New Orleans Pelicans). He was four years into a five-year contract. That contract paid West a total of $45 million. But it was "front-loaded," meaning West's annual salary decreased every year of the contract—including from 2009 to 2010. West received all $45 million owed to him under the contract.

Still, he submitted an "Individual Economic Loss Claim" under the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement ("Settlement").1 These claims can be submitted only by individuals "who seek compensation for lost earnings from employment due to or resulting from the [Deepwater Horizon] Spill." Settlement Agreement Ex. 8A at 1 (emphasis added). And the Individual Economic Loss Claim form states, on its very first page, that it covers only "individuals who have experienced income losses caused by the Spill." Individual Economic Loss Claim Form 1 (emphasis added). It also required West to certify "that the information provided in [his] Claim Form [was] true and accurate to the best of [his] knowledge." Id. at 15. Based on that attestation, the Claims Administrator [**3]  used West's tax forms to calculate his "lost earnings." The Claims Administrator determined West was entitled to $1,412,673.06. BP contested that determination because West "lost" nothing—he received all the money promised by the front-loaded terms of his pre-spill contract.

BP first sought reversal before the Appeal Panel. It argued West was not entitled to any award under the Agreement because (1) Individual Economic Loss Claimants can recover only if they experienced a loss caused by the spill, and (2) West cannot satisfy the Settlement's attestation requirements. The Appeal Panel affirmed West's award. It concluded West established causation because his employer—the Hornets—benefited from presumed causation under the Settlement. It therefore held West needed nothing more to claim "lost" earnings.

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919 F.3d 284 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8325 **

BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, INCORPORATED; BP AMERICA PRODUCTION COMPANY; BP, P.L.C., Requesting Parties-Appellants, v. CLAIMANT ID 100281817, Objecting Party-Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "DeepWater Horizon", 731 F. Supp. 2d 1352, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83268 (J.P.M.L., Aug. 10, 2010)

CORE TERMS

Settlement, district court, economic loss, spill, claimant's, Earnings, lost earnings, damages, losses, per curiam, discretionary, attestation, causation, majority opinion, legal question, claim form, unexpected, oil

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Settlements, Settlement Agreements, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Questions of Fact & Law, De Novo Review, Remedies, Damages