Ken Feinberg continues to fail Gulf Coast residents in administering the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). Feinberg continues to over-promise and under-deliver in his dealings with individuals and businesses in the coastal states. In the previous interim emergency claims period, the GCCF paid only 168,000 of the 466,000 claims filed as of December. Even more disappointing was the method by which Feinberg denied claims. After the Department of Justice expressed concern in November over the tremendous backlog of claims in the GCCF, Feinberg denied 100,000 claims in a ten-day period. Many of these claims were stale from sitting at the GCCF office for over two months and were denied with vague boilerplate letters that did not explain the specific reasons why they were denied. That is unacceptable.
Throughout December and January, Feinberg travelled along the Gulf Coast region promising folks that his system would be more fair, transparent, and would pay claims faster. Unfortunately, any hope that his promises would come true was dashed when Feinberg and his team of lawyers drafted the new interim and final claims protocol. Instead of having to wait a few weeks, Claimants will now have to wait up to three months to even learn whether their claims will be accepted. All the while, many of these same companies and individuals have not received one penny of relief from BP or the GCCF since the oil spill occurred. That, too, is totally unacceptable.
While the actual claim form consists of only three pages, the GCCF now requires individuals and businesses hurt by the oil spill to produce documents as if they were large, publically-traded companies. Unfortunately, many folks and businesses will not be able to meet these robust document requirements. Even more troubling is the GCCF’s final claim calculation of two times an interim emergency claim. Considering that the Exxon Valdez oil spill continues to significantly impact Alaskan residents 20 years after the spill, this method of calculation is totally unacceptable.
Predictably, the interim and final claims process has proven to be even worse than the interim emergency claims process. Since opening on December 17, 2010, Feinberg’s fund has paid only one interim claim out of the 49,310 filed. Not surprisingly, the only final full review interim claim that has been paid involves a former BP business partner – for over 10 million dollars! Neither Feinberg nor BP will disclose the name of that recipient. Too bad folks on the Gulf Coast weren’t business partners of the oil giant.
Taking all of this into consideration, it’s no surprise that Gulf Coast business closures are piling up and folks are going into bankruptcy while desperately waiting for their claims to be paid. One restaurant in Moss Point, Miss., Kicker’s Seafood, shut its doors recently after having been open for 19 years due to the GCCF’s failure to fully compensate its claims. Others, including 3 Graces restaurant of Destin, Angelo’s Fresh Seafood & Takeout (which had been operating for 20 years), The Wheelhouse (Gulf Shores), and Mike’s Café and Oyster House, are just a few of the many restaurants left in the wake of the GCCF’s and BP’s unjust claims system. Perhaps this is why so many businesses and individuals struggling for money took Feinberg’s quick pay final settlements around Christmas time at $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for businesses.
The more time passes, the more clear it becomes that Feinberg and BP are working together to avoid paying claims and to limit BP’s liability. Undoubtedly, folks along the coast are taking notice. Last month, as reported above, Judge Barbier issued a ruling recognizing that Feinberg was not independent of BP. Feinberg has actually boasted that he is working on behalf of BP. After bragging and predicting that he would eventually return $10 billion of the $20 billion BP set aside for the GCCF fund, the Department of Justice wrote a scathing letter to Feinberg stating that “the role of the GCCF is to satisfy the obligations of the responsible parties to compensate those harmed as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.” The letter said that the role “is not to preserve the $20 billion fund that BP has established or to return the money to BP.”
Lawyers in our firm are working hard every day helping Claimants get the money they deserve. Any of our readers who have any questions regarding the GCCF, or the oil spill litigation in general, can contact any of the lawyers in the Environmental Litigation Section at 800-898-2034. You can also go to our website www.BeasleyAllen.com for more information.
Sources: Associated Press, The Mobile Press Register, Florida Freedom Newspapers, Watertown Daily Times
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