On April 20, 2010, the oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. For months after, the well below the rig spewed oil into the Gulf. It washed up on the shores of many states and devastated the environment and economies of the surrounding communities. Litigation followed and BP desperately tried to salvage its image. Facing unprecedented damage that it had done to the Gulf Coast, BP enthusiastically put forward a settlement agreement to the people injured on the coast. It wrote the agreement and it championed it to the court. Now, BP has asked the Supreme Court to help it get out of that agreement.
Billions have been paid to individuals injured as a result of the economic losses stemming from the spill. When BP agreed to the settlement, it thought the deal was good. Now, the oil giant seems to be experience buyer’s remorse.
BP wants to have the Supreme Court invalidate the settlement agreement that has been upheld repeatedly in the lower courts. The 5th Circuit previously concluded that, “There is nothing fundamentally unreasonable about what BP accepted but now wishes it had not.”
The Supreme Court has an opportunity to stand up for consumers instead of corporations. The frightening history of this Robert’s Court hasn’t been kind to consumers though. If the Court does decide to support BP in this case, it will devastate the basic tenants of the right to contract in the United States.
As Tom Young from The Hill points out:
And what of the sanctity of contract? Or phrased differently, the concept that a deal-is-a-deal? Tens of thousands of businesses were impacted by BP’s disaster, from mom-and-pops to Fortune 100 entities. According to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, 50,000 people lost their jobs and 10,000 corporate bankruptcies were filed in the months that followed the spill – in Florida alone. These business people relied upon BP’s word, handshake and written contract, voluntarily ceding their Article III right to trial by jury by entering into this alternative compensation system, only to be told two years later “nevermind, we didn’t mean it.” It is an outrage.
That the Supreme Court of the United States would let itself be complicit in such a stripping of fundamental rights is an outrage, indeed.
|Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.|