Lake Eugenie Land Dev., Inc. v. BP Exploration & Prod., Inc. (In re Deepwater Horizon), No. 14–30823.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCARL E. STEWART, Chief Judge
Citation793 F.3d 479
PartiesIn re: DEEPWATER HORIZON. Lake Eugenie Land Development, Incorporated; Bon Secour Fisheries, Incorporated; Fort Morgan Realty, Incorporated ; LFBP 1, L.L.C., doing business as GW Fins ; Panama City Beach Dolphin Tours & More, L.L.C.; Zekes Charter Fleet, L.L.C. ; William Sellers ; Kathleen Irwin; Ronald Lundy; Corliss Gallo; John Tesvich; Michael Guidry, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated; Henry Hutto; Brad Friloux; Jerry J. Kee, Plaintiffs–Appellees, v. BP Exploration & Production, Incorporated; BP America Production Company; BP, P.L.C., Defendants–Appellants.
Decision Date16 July 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14–30823.

793 F.3d 479

In re: DEEPWATER HORIZON.

Lake Eugenie Land Development, Incorporated; Bon Secour Fisheries, Incorporated; Fort Morgan Realty, Incorporated ; LFBP 1, L.L.C., doing business as GW Fins ; Panama City Beach Dolphin Tours & More, L.L.C.; Zekes Charter Fleet, L.L.C. ; William Sellers ; Kathleen Irwin; Ronald Lundy; Corliss Gallo; John Tesvich; Michael Guidry, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated; Henry Hutto; Brad Friloux; Jerry J. Kee, Plaintiffs–Appellees
v.
BP Exploration & Production, Incorporated; BP America Production Company; BP, P.L.C., Defendants–Appellants.

No. 14–30823.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

July 16, 2015.


793 F.3d 481

Stephen Jay Herman, Esq., Soren E. Gisleson, Esq., Herman Herman & Katz, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA, James Parkerson Roy, Domengeaux, Wright, Roy & Edwards, Lafayette, LA, Elizabeth Joan Cabraser, Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, L.L.P., San Francisco, CA, Samuel Issacharoff (argued), New York University School of Law, New York, N.Y., for Plaintiffs–Appellees.

Theodore B. Olson, Miguel Angel Estrada, Thomas George Hungar (argued), Scott Payne Martin, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, L.L.P., Kevin Michael Downey, Williams & Connolly, L.L.P., Washington, DC, George Howard Brown, Esq., Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, L.L.P., Palo Alto, CA, Don Keller Haycraft, Liskow & Lewis, P.L.C., New Orleans, LA, for Defendants–Appellants.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and KING and ELROD, Circuit Judges.

Opinion

CARL E. STEWART, Chief Judge:

In May 2012, BP Exploration & Production Inc. (“BP”) and related entities reached a settlement with a class of individuals who suffered economic and property damage after the Deepwater Horizon incident. That settlement agreement established a fund and an elaborate multi-tiered claims process. A provision in the agreement governs the scope and timing of the parties' access to information about these claims as they advance through that process. The district court determined that the provision did not entitle the parties to claim-specific information until an initial decision about a claim's eligibility had been made by the settlement program. BP appeals that decision. Counsel for the settlement class (“Class Counsel”) argue chiefly that this court lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal. We agree and DISMISS for lack of jurisdiction.

793 F.3d 482

I. BACKGROUND

The district court approved the settlement and expressly adopted it in a December 2012 order. The agreement (the “Settlement Agreement” or the “Agreement”) provides that the district court retains “continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over the Parties and their Counsel for the purpose of enforcing, implementing and interpreting th[e] Agreement.” At the time of briefing in this case, 288,000 claims had been filed, resulting in 75,000 awards totaling $5.2 billion.

The settlement regime (“Settlement Program”) provides for the resolution of a variety of claims—e.g., business economic loss claims, vessel damage claims, coastal real property damage claims—through a wide array of procedures. Submitting a claim requires providing completed forms and documentation proof such as tax returns and profit/loss statements.

After the Settlement Program makes a determination about a particular claim's eligibility, a claimant or BP may, in certain circumstances, avail themselves of a multi-tiered internal review process crafted to “assure accuracy, transparency, independence, and adherence” to the terms of the Settlement Agreement. The deadline for internal appeal of an eligibility determination is a function of which party appeals and the amount of the award, but all appeals must be filed within 30 days of notice of the award. Appeals are heard de novo by a panel, whose decision is intended to be “final.” Discretionary review, however, is available in the district court, which treats the panel's decision like a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, reviewing de novo any dispositive issues. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

The disputed provision here, § 4.4.14 of the Settlement Agreement, governs access to information associated with individual claims and the precise timing of that access. The relevant excerpt reads:

BP and Class Counsel shall have access to all Claim Files and Claims-related data transferred to or generated in the Settlement Program for any legitimate purpose including, without limitation, the operation of BP's separate [Oil Pollution Act] facility, prosecuting and defending appeals, reviewing and auditing the Settlement Program, reporting financial results, and pursuing indemnification, contribution, subrogation, insurance and other claims from third parties. However, BP and Class Counsel shall not have access to any Claim Files for Claims that are being processed and have not yet been resolved in the Settlement Program except if the Claim File is needed by BP, a Claimant, or their counsel to prosecute or defend an Appeal.1

Class Counsel claim that BP violated § 4.4.14 by accessing claim-specific information on an internal site run by the Claims Administrator and used regularly by the parties in the normal operation of the Settlement Program. BP counters that it was permitted to do so under § 4.4.14. After this dispute arose, the Claims Administrator interpreted § 4.4.14 to permit both parties to access claim-specific information before issuance of an eligibility notice. After such notice, the Claims Administrator determined, BP and Class Counsel could view the internal work files of the program.

793 F.3d 483

In February 2014, Class Counsel brought a motion seeking to block BP's access to claim-specific information before the Settlement Program made an initial determination about a claim's eligibility. The district court determined in an order dated March 25, 2014 (the “March 25 Order”) that neither BP nor Class Counsel should be permitted “access to any individual claim file before the Program issues a Denial Notice or an Eligibility Notice.”

BP filed a motion for reconsideration and cited five examples of situations where access to pre-determination, claim-specific data on one claim helped the company detect an improper award on a post-determination claim. For example, in one case, BP's review of claim-specific data on a group of pre-determination individual claims for property damage to a single building revealed that a different claimant had already received a $1.8 million award for the same damage alleged by the pre-determination claimants. BP appealed that award, and an appeals panel reversed it. BP's five examples show improper awards totaling about $4 million. The district court adhered to its prior holding in a June 6, 2014 order (the “June 6 Order”) denying BP's motion for reconsideration.2 The court noted that BP's request for “all pre-determination data is not justified either by the express terms of the Settlement Agreement or by the few examples it cites in its motion.” While “no program handling hundreds of thousands of claims can be flawless,” the court stated, the elaborate fraud-protection measures in place were sufficient to protect BP.

BP has appealed, citing two bases for jurisdiction. First, BP contends that this court has jurisdiction to review the district court's Orders under the collateral order doctrine. Alternatively, BP argues, this court can assert jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), which permits appellate jurisdiction in limited circumstances when, as relevant here, a court grants or modifies an injunction. Finally, on the merits, BP claims that the district court incorrectly interpreted the Settlement Agreement to prevent it from accessing claim-specific data on unresolved claims.

II. DISCUSSION

The Orders did not terminate all proceedings in this case, so the panel must first determine if jurisdiction exists. Because we conclude that we lack jurisdiction under either the collateral order doctrine or § 1292(a)(1), we do not reach the merits.

A. Collateral Order Doctrine

BP first invokes the collateral order doctrine as a basis for jurisdiction. As relevant here, 28 U.S.C. § 1291 provides that the courts of appeal have “jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts.” Generally, a final decision is one “by which a district court disassociates itself from a case.” Swint v. Chambers Cnty. Comm'n, 514 U.S. 35, 42, 115 S.Ct. 1203, 131 L.Ed.2d 60 (1995). The collateral order doctrine—typically associated with Cohen v. Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 545–46, 69 S.Ct. 1221, 93 L.Ed. 1528 (1949) —is “best understood not as an exception” to this finality rule, “but as a practical construction of it.” Will v. Hallock, 546 U.S. 345, 349, 126 S.Ct. 952, 163 L.Ed.2d 836 (2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

The doctrine supplies jurisdiction for a “ ‘small class' of pre-judgment

793 F.3d 484

orders that ‘finally determine claims of right separable from,...

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22 practice notes
  • Leonard v. Martin, 21-30475
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 30, 2022
    ...Appellate Procedure 21, this court may, in its discretion, treat an appeal as a petition for a writ of mandamus. In re Deepwater Horizon, 793 F.3d 479, 491 n.12 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting In re Grand Jury Subpoena, 190 F.3d 375, 389 n.16 (5th Cir. 1999)); see also Jefferson v. Delgado Cmty. C......
  • Wooten v. Roach, No. 19-40315
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 6, 2020
    ...This "collateral order doctrine" allows us to review orders meeting those criteria even before final judgment. In re Deepwater Horizon , 793 F.3d 479, 483 (5th Cir. 2015). Appeals from the denial of immunity—so long as the decision does not rest on disputed material facts—fall into this cat......
  • Jpmorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, No. 18-1143
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 10, 2019
    ...underlying judgment." In re Joint E. & So. Dists. Asbestos Litig. , 22 F.3d 755, 760 (7th Cir. 1994) ; see also In re Deepwater Horizon , 793 F.3d 479, 490 (5th Cir. 2015) (dismissing appeal for lack of jurisdiction following a post-judgment discovery order); Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas P......
  • Keyes v. Gunn, No. 17-60097
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 11, 2018
    ...the collateral order doctrine. Will v. Hallock , 546 U.S. 345, 350, 126 S.Ct. 952, 163 L.Ed.2d 836 (2006) ; In re Deepwater Horizon , 793 F.3d 479, 484–85 (5th Cir. 2015). We thus have appellate jurisdiction to entertain this appeal.Ordinarily, a district court's rejection of a defense of l......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Leonard v. Martin, 21-30475
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 30, 2022
    ...Appellate Procedure 21, this court may, in its discretion, treat an appeal as a petition for a writ of mandamus. In re Deepwater Horizon, 793 F.3d 479, 491 n.12 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting In re Grand Jury Subpoena, 190 F.3d 375, 389 n.16 (5th Cir. 1999)); see also Jefferson v. Delgado Cmty. C......
  • Wooten v. Roach, No. 19-40315
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 6, 2020
    ...This "collateral order doctrine" allows us to review orders meeting those criteria even before final judgment. In re Deepwater Horizon , 793 F.3d 479, 483 (5th Cir. 2015). Appeals from the denial of immunity—so long as the decision does not rest on disputed material facts—fall into this cat......
  • Jpmorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, No. 18-1143
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 10, 2019
    ...underlying judgment." In re Joint E. & So. Dists. Asbestos Litig. , 22 F.3d 755, 760 (7th Cir. 1994) ; see also In re Deepwater Horizon , 793 F.3d 479, 490 (5th Cir. 2015) (dismissing appeal for lack of jurisdiction following a post-judgment discovery order); Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas P......
  • Keyes v. Gunn, No. 17-60097
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 11, 2018
    ...the collateral order doctrine. Will v. Hallock , 546 U.S. 345, 350, 126 S.Ct. 952, 163 L.Ed.2d 836 (2006) ; In re Deepwater Horizon , 793 F.3d 479, 484–85 (5th Cir. 2015). We thus have appellate jurisdiction to entertain this appeal.Ordinarily, a district court's rejection of a defense of l......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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