BP attorney suggests that the oil giant might seek to cap spill claims at $75 million By Brett Michael Dykes Sat Oct 16, 12:30 pm ET In a seemingly never-ending parade of radio, television, print and web ads, in addition to numerous official statements, BP officials have repeatedly insisted that the company intends to make the Gulf Coast and its residents "whole" again. In the latest such PR blitz, BP employee and New Orleans native Iris Cross reiterates that the company will do everything it has to do in order to "make this right." But yesterday in federal court, an attorney for the oil giant sent shockwaves throughout the Gulf region by suggesting that BP may seek shelter under the $75 million liability cap polluters can invoke under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier, who's presiding over the more than 300 consolidated lawsuits against the company, was taken aback when BP attorney Don Haycraft floated the idea of the liability cap. Barbier replied simply that "BP said it would pay whatever [is] necessary." Steven Herman, a plaintiffs attorney in the case, also registered surprise. "We're shocked over here to hear the defendants now bring up this $75 million cap," he said. "We were under the impression it was waived." Haycraft did not dispute BP's oft-repeated stance -- but he also noted that the company has already forked over "lots and lots" of money, suggesting that the Oil Pollution Act could help stanch the company's cash outlays in reparation to spill victims who've lost income as a result of the disaster. "I have said for sure, BP will pay all legitimate claims," Haycraft said -- prompting to Herman snap back, "All legitimate claims up to $75 million?" Haycraft's response: "I am not prepared to answer that question in this context." Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act in 1990 in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill. Under the law's provisions, BP is liable for all cleanup related costs but can't be compelled to pay anything above the $75 million ceiling in damage claims arising from the spill. Some lawmakers tried to raise the cap retroactively to $10 billion, but Senate Republicans blocked those efforts. Earlier this week, the BP claims fund that Kenneth Feinberg oversees for both the oil giant and the federal government topped the $1 billion mark in payouts. During yesterday's heated courtroom exchange, Haycraft said he hasn't finished discussing the possibility of waiving the cap with BP executives. Barbier ordered Haycraft to state in writing within a week whether the company intends to waive the cap. "We all need to know sooner rather than later," the judge said. BP did not respond to The Upshot's attempts to get clarification on this. The White House also did not respond to The Upshot's requests for comment.