Feinberg Offers Gulf Oil Spill Claimants Quick Check But With a Catch

Posted in Alabama Maritime News,BP British Petroleum,Deepwater Horizon,Environment,Florida Maritime News,Government,Gulf Coast,Maritime Law,Mississippi Maritime News,Texas Maritime News,World Maritime News on December 15, 2010

Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the BP $20 billion fund, said on Monday, December 13, that Gulf oil spill claimants who want more cash can now get a quick check within two weeks, but they will have to forfeit their right to sue BP or receive any additional payments.

“No more documentation required, no requirement that you add any evidence of damage,” Feinberg said of the new option to receive quick cash.

Feinberg said individual claimants who already received some compensation from the fund can get a $5,000 check, but they can’t sue BP and won’t be eligible for a final settlement. Businesses could seek a $25,000 check. The payments would be issued within two weeks.

Feinberg said the new quick pay check is largely for people who feel they’ve already been paid adequately and just want to get on with their lives. He said it could clear the books of thousands of claimants and allow the facility to focus on those seeking interim or final settlements.

The other options are to seek quarterly interim payments for losses until August 2013, or file for a lump sum final settlement. If claimants choose a lump sum settlement that means that they will be giving up the right to sue BP over the Deepwater Horizon disaster that occurred April 20, 2010. Some who haven’t decided whether to accept the final payment or to sue BP can opt for the interim payments in the meantime.

According to The Huffington Post:

Mississippi seafood processor Keath Ladner said his claim for roughly $1.7 million has been pending for three months, and the losses keep growing. He employs about 70 boats and is one of the largest processors in the state.

Ladner received some money early on, but nothing in months, and said he wouldn’t even consider accepting the $25,000 quick payment.

“I think that’s the perfect definition of extortion,” he said, adding that it feels like Feinberg is keeping people like him waiting for money so they have to accept any “scraps.”

The money “wouldn’t even cover my past due rent expenses,” Ladner said. “If I have to lose everything down to my last pair of shoes, I will have attorneys sue for everything I’ve lost.”

Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, Ala., a tourist-rich stretch of coast that was hit hard by the summer’s oil, questioned the new payment option and fears many may just take the check out of desperation.

He said many business owners who still haven’t been paid, or were paid fractions of their losses, have no idea how much more they may get in the coming months.

“They don’t know how long they’ll have to hang on if they don’t take this new quick cash route,” Kennon said. “It could be construed as a pittance for folks who out of desperation have to get some cash now.”

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility has received more than 460,000 requests for money. The facility has denied 233,000 of those filings.

Feinberg said up to 3,000 claims are “very suspicious” and are under review. Federal authorities say seven people have already been indicted for allegedly filing fraudulent damage claims.

Published by maritime lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP