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In re Deepwater Horizon

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20091
Nos. 13-30843, (5th Cir., 05/08/2015)

The Fifth Circuit held that parties to the class action settlement agreement concerning economic and property damages stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may seek appellate review of district court decisions on individual claims. The district court had approved final rules governing discretionary district court review of appeal determinations for claims processed through the Deepwater Horizon settlement program, but the parties disagreed as to whether they also allowed for appellate review. The Settlement Agreement is not clear on the matter, and the Fifth Circuit has yet to specifically address the question of how to treat a settlement agreement's silence on whether there is a right to appeal from district court decisions on individual claims. The court therefore chose to follow other circuit courts' decisions in similar cases and held that, where a settlement agreement does not resolve claims itself but instead establishes a mechanism pursuant to which the district court will resolve claims, parties have a right to appeal from claim determination decisions by the district court unless they expressly waived that right. Because the final rules failed to provide docketing provisions providing for a proper appeal to the Fifth Circuit, they were remanded on that basis.