NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge overseeing the massive litigation stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill issued an order on Friday capping the amount attorneys can charge plaintiffs who participate in a settlement with BP Plc.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans gave preliminary approval last month to an estimated $7.8 billion settlement BP reached to resolve more than 100,000 claims by individuals and businesses affected by the spill.
In his order on Friday, Barbier ruled that attorneys for plaintiffs who settle claims through the settlement must limit their contingency fee arrangements to 25 percent of any recovery a plaintiff receives plus "reasonable costs."
Barbier emphasized that the 25 percent figure was a ceiling and that attorneys were free to charge less.
"In many cases, a reasonable fee may be less than 25 percent, particularly for a relatively simple claim by an individual," he wrote. "This Order is not intended to allow or encourage attorneys to charge more than a reasonable fee under any circumstance."
The settlement BP reached includes two agreements, one for economic and property claims and one for medical claims. Barbier has set a November 8 hearing to address objections, and will then consider whether to grant final approval.
A group of attorneys who negotiated those agreements with BP, known as the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, are seeking $600 million for their work. Those fees, which would be paid by BP under the terms of the settlement, must be approved by Barbier.
The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179
(Reporting by Andrew Longstreth; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)