A federal appeals court panel upheld the settlement agreement in the 2010 oil spill, but BP said a key question in the dispute remained before the court.
"BP will continue to press its position on the proper interpretation of the settlement agreement's provisions requiring a causal nexus between a claimant's injury and the spill," company spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a written statement.
At issue is whether or not BP had earlier agreed that some of the billions of dollars it was paying out in claims likely went to companies and individuals who did not actually suffer any significant damages.
The appeals court's three-judge panel said the lower-court judge in the case was not obligated to determine whether or not the claimants had been harmed financially when he approved the settlement, the Wall Street Journal said.
The Journal said BP had argued that the administrator of the fund that paid damages had calculated losses improperly, causing millions of dollars to go to companies that were not harmed financially by the spill.
Another setback, however, could mean BP would be on the hook for as much as $14 billion, legal analyst Tom Claps of Susquehanna Financial Group told the Journal.
Friday's ruling was not unanimous. One of the three appeals court judges agreed that the settlement violated the requirements for causation in business lawsuits, the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune said. The other two judges, however, said the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts had sent out mixed messages on causation and the trial judge was not obligated to double-check the parties in the settlement.
"We note the possibility that the application of a stricter evidentiary standard might reveal persons or entities who have received payments under (the agreement's rules) and yet have suffered no loss resulting from the oil spill," the ruling said. "But courts are not authorized to apply such a standard for this purpose"