NEW ORLEANS — In a per curium order issued on Feb. 9, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court's denial of a company's claims against the Deepwater Horizon settlement program.
The company, identified only as an automotive-parts provider and by claimant ID No. 100212278, had filed business economic-loss claims with the Court Supervised Settlement Program, but had been denied at every turn: by the CSSP, an appeal panel and a district court.
The auto-parts provider sought compensation as a "tourism business," which would have relieved it of a “need to demonstrate loss causation,” according to court documents. It claimed that it accommodated or catered to the "needs or wants of persons traveling to, or staying in, places outside their home community,” the opinion stated.
However, the CSSP and appeal panel determined that its stores were not tourism businesses and denied its claims for failing to satisfy causation standards.
The Deepwater Horizon blast in 2010 killed 11 people, injured 115 others and dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months. The disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history, according to a report on Brookings.edu, triggered an avalanche of lawsuits that were litigated in federal court.
BP took responsibility for the spill and has distributed millions of dollars in damages to affected entities.
The 5th Circuit opinion stated that the auto-parts provider's evidence that it was engaged in accommodating or catering to the needs or wants of persons traveling to, or staying in, places outside their home community — which consisted of a website that displays a list of automotive-products drivers should consider replacing before long trips and evidences that it carries storage and cargo equipment primarily used by vacationers — did not demonstrate that the appeal panel abused its discretion in determining otherwise.
"BP contends that the appeal panel correctly determined there was insufficient concrete evidence to show that any of the specific stores in question qualified as a tourism business," the opinion stated. "In particular, none of the stores offers evidence regarding its actual sales of cargo equipment or sales of products on the website’s list and none offers evidence of sales to non-local customers as contemplated by the Settlement Agreement."
The opinion further stated that the "totality of the circumstances did not show the stores to be tourism businesses.”
"The appeal panel had expressly considered the possibility that although the stores were not located in tourist areas, they might incidentally serve some tourists while pursuing their primary business as sellers of automotive parts and accessories," the opinion said.
The 5th Circuit panel that included Judges Thomas Reavley, Jennifer Elrod and James Graves Jr. found that the district court’s denial of discretionary review did not constitute an abuse of discretion.