Feinberg Begins Final Claims Run

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida


BP claims administrator Ken Feinberg on Wednesday released the set of protocols for final payment of damages following a deluge of last-minute emergency claims that came in prior to the Nov. 23 deadline.

Saying that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has already paid $2 billion to 125,000 recipients of emergency claims, Feinberg said the rush of last-minute requests will take until Dec. 15 to process. After that, the facility will turn its attention to making final payments from the $20 billion BP fund over the next three years.

Feinberg said the next round of final payments will compensate individuals and businesses for future losses in exchange for agreements by the claimants to end legal action against the company. Under the voluntary program, claimants must sign a release to waive any rights to sue BP and any other potentially liable parties.

Claimants not ready to make that commitment can still collect interim payments for past losses up until August 2013. Businesses and individuals unsatisfied with the compensation package can also take their claims to court.

Some business groups located inland or in other parts of the state also say the spill hurt their businesses as tourists canceled or cut short businesses to Florida destinations, some of which were hundreds of miles away from the tar balls and sheen the came ashore in Florida’s Panhandle.

Under the Federal Pollution Control Act of 1990, proximity to actual oil exposure is a “major requirement for a valid legal claim, according to a 48-page memorandum of law penned by Harvard Law Professor John Goldman. The memorandum goes on to say that businesses not directly affected by the blobs of oil will likely not fare well if they take their cases to court.

Feinberg has said repeatedly that proximity alone will not be the sole determinant for whether claims are valid, but affected businesses and individuals must provide credible evidence that any loss of business was attributable to the spill.

“The GCCF will be much more generous than current Federal or State Law,” Feinberg said in a statement. “Proximity is not a bar to a GCCF claim, but damage must still be proven.“

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