Federal Judge Denies Motion to Reduce Retiree Class Represented by JVW

BP Corp. North America Inc.’s effort to remove nearly 4,700 retirees from a class-action lawsuit challenging pension changes tied to a 1980s corporate acquisition failed on Friday after a Texas federal judge concluded that these retirees’ claims were not barred by an earlier lawsuit.

BP argued that more than half of the 6,700 class members were covered by a $71 million settlement agreement negotiated two decades ago because they took lump sum pension distributions between 1989 and 2002.  U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks rejected BP’s argument that 4,676 people should be excluded from a class certified in March 2021 because they were also members of a certified class in another case. Class members were paid $71 million as part of the settlement in the prior case, which alleged pensioners, who took out early lump-sum benefits, were underpaid.

Judge Hanks said the facts of the two cases were not sufficiently related to bar further pursuit of court actions by the same parties.

James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A. client and plaintiff Fritz Guenther filed suit in 2016 on behalf of a class of retirees, who alleged BP Corp. North America Inc. and the BP Retirement Accumulation Plan shorted him and others on at least $100 million in retirement benefits following a botched plan conversion tied to the company’s acquisition of Standard Oil of Ohio in the 1980s.

Leander L. James, IV, one of the attorneys for the class and founding shareholder of JVW, told Law 360:

“We are pleased BP’s final motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment are behind us. The road is now paved toward trial, set for June 20 to July 3rd,” James said. “We look forward to the opportunity for justice for all class members.”

Mr. Guenther and the class are represented by Leander L. James, Susan P. Weeks, and Brady L. Espeland of James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A., and Philip R. Meade, Peter Steilberg, and Rossi F. Maddalena of Merrick, Hofstedt & Linsey PS.

See also:

Top Class Actions – “BP pension class action to proceed without class decrease

Mealey’s – “Judge:  No Factual Nucleus Between 2 ERISA Suits Over Retirement Plan Conversion” (Requires A Lexis Legal News Subscription)

Law360 – “BP Must Face Pension Suit Without Class Carveout” (Requires A Law360 Subscription)