In a very important ruling, Judge Carl Barbier has found that Ken Feinberg, who as we all know is the administrator of BP’s claims facility, is not the independent claims man that he has declared himself to be. Under the judge’s order, BP must refrain from calling Feinberg “neutral.” Instead, BP must disclose in all communications that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) and Feinberg, as its administrator, are acting on behalf of BP in fulfilling the oil company’s legal obligations under the Oil Pollution Act.
Fishermen, boat-owners, tour-boat operators, hotel owners, business owners, and others who lost their livelihoods stemming from last year’s Gulf oil spill believed that Feinberg was an independent claims man. They now realize that this man was far from independent. We knew that he wasn’t from the beginning and now a judge agrees with us. Because Feinberg is paid by BP, there’s a built-in conflict of interest that stacks the entire claims process against the folks who are seeking redress. Judge Barbier ordered Feinberg to make his relationship with BP transparent in all of his communications involving claims.
So far, about 87,000 individuals and businesses have accepted a settlement of their claims. Each one of those settlements comes with an agreement not to sue BP and other wrongdoers. Judge Barbier ruled that BP must tell Claimants they have the right to consult a lawyer and to explain that Claimants have the right to join the hundreds of pending lawsuits if they do not accept a final settlement. The judge also said the court may take action to cure previous miscommunication by Feinberg and the GCCF. This could result in the settlements being re-examined.
This is a very good ruling by Judge Barbier and one that will protect persons and businesses who have been injured and damaged by the oil spill. Lawyers in our firm who have been working on the BP litigation know from experience that Feinberg has misled folks in a number of ways relating to his role and their rights. Hopefully, things now will change and for the better.
Source: Insurance Journal
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