The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) spearheading the litigation surrounding the 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill announced on March 3rd that a settlement in principle had been reached with BP that will fully compensate hundreds of thousands of victims of the tragedy. The settlement will be fully funded by BP, with no cap on the amount BP will pay. BP is obligated to fully satisfy all eligible claims under the terms of the court supervised settlement, irrespective of the funds previously set aside.
The agreement will resolve the majority of private economic loss, property damage and medical injury claims stemming from the Gulf Oil Spill. It will hold BP fully accountable to individuals and businesses harmed by the spill. Rhon Jones, who heads up our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, serves on the PSC in the MDL. Rhon helped in the tremendously difficult job of putting the settlement together. Stephen J. Herman and James P. Roy, Plaintiffs’ Co-Liaison Counsel in the MDL, did a tremendous job and are due to be commended for their hard work and leadership. They had this to say in a statement:
We are extremely pleased to bring justice to those harmed by the BP Gulf Oil Spill. This settlement will provide a full measure of compensation to hundreds of thousands – in a transparent and expeditious manner under rigorous judicial oversight. It does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.
Two separate settlement agreements have been reached with BP. The first settlement compensates private economic losses due to the Gulf Oil Spill. These claims include businesses and individuals that lost profits; sustained damage to coastal property, wetlands and personal property; sustained real property sales losses; lost subsistence use; and have claims for failure to pay under BP’s Vessels of Opportunity Program. The second settlement compensates people with medical claims related to the spill and provides periodic medical consultation for the next 21 years. Claimants can participate in either or both settlement programs.
There will be no delay in the processing of economic loss claims while the heart of the claims process shifts to New Orleans, where Court supervision will ensure independence, fairness, transparency of process, and accountability. During the transition period claimants will be able to accept a percentage of their existing GCCF (Gulf Coast Claims Facility) offers while preserving their right to participate in the economic loss settlement. Under the new program, eligible claimants will generally be paid greater benefits than under the GCCF.
Details of the Settlement in Principle
• Economic Loss Claims
Individuals and businesses that suffered financial losses from the oil spill will be compensated within a framework intended to encompass all economic losses reasonably related to the oil spill. It is presumed that losses suffered by businesses and individuals in close proximity to the Gulf Coast, or in the seafood industry, were caused by the oil spill without further proof. To account for the specific circumstances of other claimants, there are a variety of ways to demonstrate that losses were caused by the oil spill. There is no “one-size-fits-all.” The intent of the framework is to be inclusive.
Under the settlement, the formula for calculating the amount of compensation allows each claimant to select the months used to measure lost income or profits based on historical earnings. Most importantly, the formula allows claimants to recover for lost growth potential. Again, there is no “one size fits all.” Generally speaking, for claimants eligible for compensation, a Risk Transfer Premium (RTP) or “multiplier” will be used to account for ecological and economic uncertainty. The specific RTP multiplier depends on the location and nature of the claimant’s business.
• Medical Benefits
The Medical settlement will potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents and Clean-Up Workers who suffered acute or chronic illnesses from exposure to oil and chemical dispersants in the weeks and months after the oil spill. Residents in the coastal and wetlands areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle will be compensated for a broad range of specific medical conditions such as respiratory, skin, stomach, headaches and a host of other ailments. At one end of the spectrum, Clean-Up Workers can submit a claim with a Declaration under penalty of perjury describing the conditions or symptoms after exposure even if they did not seek medical treatment at the time of exposure. At the other end, residents and workers who suffer chronic symptoms or conditions from exposure will be required to submit medical records from the time of exposure and for ongoing medical care. Coastal residents and Clean-Up Workers who experience future manifestation of illness retain the right to sue BP without proof of liability for the spill and exposure.
The settlement also establishes a periodic medical consultation program for 21 years for people affected by the spill to ensure access to appropriate healthcare throughout the Gulf Coast region. A grant of more than $100 million will be used to establish a five-year program to enhance access to physical and mental health care services in the Gulf Coast region—with an emphasis on integrated and sustainable community-based primary and mental health care and environmental and occupational health services. These services will benefit families in the entire region for years to come.
• Affected Property Owners
Property owners and long-term lessees of waterfront properties in the affected coastal and wetlands region are eligible to receive compensation for loss of use and enjoyment of their property. This compensation was not available through the GCCF and recognizes that residents in the affected region were unable to fully enjoy their homes in the aftermath of the oil spill.
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