loses bid to block seafood fund payments
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[February 27, 2014]
By Jessica Dye
(Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday denied BP Plc's <BP.L>
request to halt payments from the $2.3 billion fund it has created
to compensate commercial fishermen for financial losses claimed
after the British company's 2010 offshore oil spill, according to
BP had sought to block the payments after alleging that some
individuals supposedly injured by the spill, clients of attorney
Mikal Watts, did not exist. The company said it has already paid out
more than $1 billion from the so-called Seafood Compensation Fund.
District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who is overseeing
litigation stemming from the spill, denied the motion on Wednesday,
according to an entry on the court docket. The judge also granted
Watts's motion to stay BP's civil action against him over the
alleged fraud pending a related federal criminal investigation.
In a statement, lawyers for BP plaintiffs, Steve Herman and Jim Roy,
said they were "pleased the court will not let BP hold the entire
seafood program hostage as part of its continuing effort to rewrite
history and the settlement agreement."
BP and Watts did not immediately return requests for comment
The ruling followed a hearing in the New Orleans federal court,
where litigation related to the Gulf of Mexico spill has been
consolidated. Also on Wednesday, a federal judge in a related case
indefinitely postponed a criminal trial set to begin March 10 for
David Rainey, a former vice-president of exploration for the Gulf of
Rainey was charged with obstructing an investigation by Congress
into the Gulf spill, and another count of lying to law-enforcement
officials. The judge overseeing his case, U.S. District Judge Kurt
Engelhardt, dismissed the obstruction count, which federal
prosecutors have appealed. Prosecutors later re-filed the
obstruction of Congress charge in a superseding indictment.
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In an order made public Wednesday, Engelhardt said that Rainey's
trial will be delayed pending the appeals court's resolution of the
appeal, which "will likely provide critical parameters for further
proceedings in this matter."
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York;
Editing by Ken Wills)
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