Class Action News

NFL Team Can’t Bar Public From Hearing on BP Oil Spill Claims

April 1, 2019, 3:40 PM

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ request to seal the courtroom when the Fifth Circuit hears its challenge to the payout it received from the BP oil spill fund “goes too far—by a longshot,” the appeals court said March 29.

The National Football League team “has used the federal courts in its attempt to obtain millions of dollars it believes BP owes because of the oil spill,” Judge Gregg J. Costa wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The team shouldn’t be able to “benefit from this public resource while treating it like a private tribunal when there is no good reason to do so,” the court said. “The public will be able to access the courtroom it pays for.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning, a National Hockey League team, also challenged the economic damages award it received from the Deepwater Horizon spill settlement. Its hearing at the Fifth Circuit was public.

“The court is unable to discern any reason for keeping secret the oil-spill claim of a football team when the claim of a hockey team (and of course those of numerous other businesses) is a public matter,” the court said.

The Buccaneers argued the amount of revenue it receives from the NFL is proprietary information. That confidential financial data would likely come up at oral argument, it says.

But “the judges have the data at their fingertips, so there is no need for a lawyer to mention the actual numbers,” the court said.

The hearing is set for April 1.

The case is BP Exploration & Prod., Inc. v. Claimant ID 100246928, 2019 BL 112570, 5th Cir., No. 18-30375, 3/29/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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