BP offers class-action settlement to judge

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NEW ORLEANS -- BP and attorneys for more than 100,000 people and businesses presented a federal judge yesterday with a class-action settlement designed to resolve billions of dollars in claims spawned by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The London-based oil giant and the lawyers are asking U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to give preliminary approval to the settlement agreement. The judge has not indicated when he will rule.

BP Plc estimates it will pay about $7.8 billion to resolve the claims, but the settlement has no cap, making it likely to be one of the largest class-action payouts ever.

The agreement's details are consistent with the deal announced last month, but the reaction was mixed, leaving open the possibility that many might decide not to take part.

The agreement announced March 2 doesn't resolve separate claims brought by the federal government and Gulf states against BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig over environmental damage from the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

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The settlement also doesn't resolve claims against Switzerland-based rig owner Transocean Ltd. and Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton. Barbier has scheduled a May 3 hearing to discuss plans for a possible trial on the other claims.

Barbier also is expected to hold a "fairness hearing" on the settlement before deciding whether to approve it.

The agreement calls for paying medical claims by cleanup workers and others who say they suffered illnesses from exposure to the oil or chemicals used to disperse it. None of those claims were paid through a BP-created $20 billion compensation fund.

The agreement spells out several compensation levels, with cleanup workers eligible for the most: up to $60,700, plus money to cover hospital and medical bills they might have racked up.

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