Deepwater Horizon Plaintiffs' Lawyers Awarded $555.2 Million in Fees

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans issued an order Oct. 25 granting that amount in fees for what he described as one of the most complicated multidistrict litigation cases ever brought to trial.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans has awarded $555.2 million in fees to the plaintiffs' lawyers involved in the Deepwater Horizon litigation tried in his courtroom, with an order Oct. 25 granting that amount for their work in what he described as one of the most complicated multidistrict litigation cases ever brought to trial. His order did not determine how the lawyers will divide that amount, saying the allocation will be decided later.

Barbier's 43-page order spells out the mammoth amount of work done in the litigation to resolve claims after an explosion in April 2010 caused the loss of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP, on the hook for the bulk of the resulting costs and cleanup, on July 14, 2016, announced it had estimated all remaining material liabilities from the disaster would be a total of $61.6 billion, $44.0 billion after tax, after making "significant progress in resolving outstanding claims" and expected to take an after-tax, non-operating charge of around $2.5 billion in its second quarter 2016 results.

"Petitioning Attorneys have performed an immense amount of work in this MDL," Barbier wrote in the order. "Counsel expended over 527,000 hours on common benefit work. Counsel took hundreds of depositions and analyzed over 90 million pages of documents. Furthermore, they did something that rarely happens in class actions: they actually went to trial. Counsel engaged in a massive, two-phase trial effort in pursuit of the claims assigned to the class by BP and the expressly reserved claims of individual class members. The demands of this case not only precluded other employment, it required many common benefit attorneys to move to New Orleans and devote their entire practice to this MDL for years. These lawyers spent days and weeks away from their homes and families. This resulted in a high level of collaboration, benefitting not only class members, but the entire litigation."

His order discusses various settlements in the case, including $9 billion in an economic settlement of more than 130,000 claims as of Aug. 31, 2016. Halliburton and Transocean have agreed to pay up to $124,950,000 in common benefit attorneys' fees and expenses, in addition to the $1.24 billion in benefits, in connection with their class settlements, the order states.

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