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Federal judge rejects motion to extend deadline for BP oil spill seafood settlement
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Federal judge rejects motion to extend deadline for BP oil spill seafood settlement

The federal judge overseeing the massive BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill litigation has denied a request to extend the deadline for commercial fishing vessel owners and others to join a $2.3 billion settlement to cover seafood-related claims.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the litigation, rejected a motion Thursday by Brett Coon, a Texas lawyer who represents thousands of claimants in the class-action settlement, which was approved last month.

On Monday, a day before the deadline, Coon filed a motion seeking to push back the deadline for seafood-related losses to be filed until April 22, contending that the quick turnaround since the deal was approved was an issue. In the filing, Coon said additional time was necessary because the deal is "massive, extraordinarily complicated, and confusing to read and interpret."

That deadline has since passed. In the judge's order rejecting the effort, Barbier said that "for months, it has been well publicized that seafood claims would be due" within 30 days of the court granting final approval of the settlement. Barbier noted that the court first mentioned the deadline in early May 2012.

"The settlement itself outlined what documentation was required, and there were resources available to help claimants - including Spanish and Vietnamese-speaking claimants - understand these requirements," Barbier wrote in the filing.

The seafood compensation program is part of a larger settlement that deals with medical, economic and property claims resulting from BP's Macondo well blowout, which killed 11 rig workers and caused one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. The overall settlement could resolve more than 100,000 class-action claims, which the British petroleum giant estimates could cost about $7.8 billion or more.

BP is preparing for the Feb. 25 start of a trial that will determine what fines the responsible parties should pay for violating a variety of federal environmental laws.

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