The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), the organization running BP’s oil spill compensation system under the direction of Ken Feinberg, has appointed 25 people from Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana to serve as appeals judges for the claims process. The persons appointed include former state Supreme Court Justices, law school deans and professors and other members of the legal community. It’s a very good and qualified group. In March, the GCCF hired Jack Weiss, chancellor of Louisiana State University’s law school, to select the panel. In my opinion, he did a good job. My question is: Why did Feinberg wait so long to get this done? Why wasn’t it done months ago?
Anyone who files a claim valued at more than $250,000 can protest the claims operation’s initial ruling to the appeals panel. BP can protest the decision on any claim above $500,000. The judges will serve in panels of three and the panels will have 14 days to rule on each case before them. If Claimants are not satisfied with the appeals ruling, they can file their claim with the U.S. Coast Guard, or they can sue BP and other companies involved in the spill. While this appeals process looks good on paper, the problem is not with the panel. Instead, it’s how the GCCF has been handling claims. In my opinion that won’t change.
More than 500,000 people and businesses have filed for reimbursement of losses with the GCCF since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded over a year ago. So far the claims facility has only paid out $4.4 billion. Business owners and elected officials have sharply criticized the operation, run by Ken Feinberg, who is being paid by BP, for offering payments that are much too small, delaying, and forcing spill victims to go through an onerous process to prove their losses. I am not sure appointing the appeals panel judges will change things for BP’s victims to any large degree.
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