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Court reverses nearly $1.5M oil spill award to ex-NBA star

By KEVIN McGILL

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Former NBA star David West is not entitled to a nearly $1.5 million award stemming from BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Court records show West submitted a claim under the terms of a settlement BP entered after the spill to avoid prolonged litigation with those claiming spill-related losses.

The claim was based on his compensation as a member of the NBA's New Orleans franchise having dropped after the spill.

BP challenged the award, saying West earned what he was expected to earn under a "front-loaded" $45 million contract he signed years before the spill, according to court records. On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for BP.

"He received every penny specified in that contract both before and after the spill," 5th Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham said of West in an opinion for a three-judge panel.

Lawyers for West said that at the time of the spill he was working for a tourism-related industry - the NBA franchise then known as the New Orleans Hornets - and that, under the settlement, such employees don't have to prove an economic loss suffered after the Gulf disaster was caused by the spill.

They said that West established that his income dropped after the spill, and that, under formulas established in the settlement, he was entitled to compensation.

Oldham's opinion said only those claiming "unexpected damages" could submit claims for spill-related economic loss.

"West expected to earn in the absence of the spill precisely what he did earn after it," Oldham wrote.

The opinion reversed a lower court, which had refused to review decisions by a claims administrator and an administrative appeals panel. Oldham wrote for himself and Judge Edith Jones. Judge Catharina Haynes wrote a partial dissent, saying she agreed that the loss claimed was not caused by the spill but the case should have been sent back to the district court for further action.

West's attorneys did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

Updated March 21, 2019

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