The so-called emergency protocol for BP oil spill claims was released by Ken Feinberg on August 20th and it leaves lots up in the air for Claimants. Even a casual reading of the document made it abundantly clear that it’s much too favorable to BP. First, only BP’s American production company, BP Exploration and Production, Inc., is responsible under the $20 billion fund. No other BP company is involved at all in the protocol. Neither are any of the other companies, which share responsibility for the Gulf oil spill disaster, involved in any respect in the Feinberg protocol. No assets are pledged by BP other than future oil and gas product by the production company.
In fact, if a Claimant receives a final payment from the fund, a complete release of liability will be required. This would mean that neither any other BP company, nor any other potential Defendants, would remain liable to the Claimants for damages, past or future. This would shut off access to the courts for the Claimants.
There is also a question as to why those who have legal exposure for the damages caused now and in the future by the chemicals dumped in the Gulf were left out. This could wind up being a major omission and very much detrimental to Claimants. You will see why that is true in another section of this issue. The damages from the combination of oil and the chemicals could wind up being the biggest long term culprit.
Clearly, the emergency claims protocol leaves many unanswered questions about the claims process for future and final claims. It’s obviously detrimental for Claimants to be forced to accept a final payment before they can possibly know the full impact of the oil spill. The setting of a November deadline for emergency payments is also premature since the full extent of the spill is far from being determined.
Ultimately, a final claims process must ensure that all potential Claimants are fully compensated and that their access to the civil justice system is preserved. All BP companies and the other responsible corporations must be held fully accountable for their wrongdoing. Based on everything I have seen so far it appears BP is literally running this show. I believe the Feinburg protocols are much too favorable to BP in a number of areas.
Even though I have wondered why it took so long for BP to fund the claims account, at least it was finally done. But the bottom line is that the Claimants are getting the short end of the stick from both BP and Feinberg. I seriously doubt that BP will ever live up to its commitment to voluntarily pay all legitimate claims in full. BP will have to be made to do so in a court of law. The oil giant has done all in its power to make sure that it pays substantially less than full value on claims, while requiring full releases in return for payments. As I have said on numerous occasions, and will repeat here for emphasis, I don’t trust BP and don’t expect it to do right by its victims. I am also beginning to wonder who Mr. Feinberg is really working for. I thought his role was to be an independent claims administrator.
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