As this Report was going to print, a major development was in the works with the Oil Spill Medical Benefits Settlement. While the Economic and Property Damages settlement has gotten most of the media attention, the PSC also reached a separate Medical Benefits Class Settlement to compensate those who lived directly on the coast, or participated in the cleanup, and were sickened as a result of their exposure to crude oil and dispersant chemicals. The Settlement is a one of a kind, landmark settlement that provides compensation and long term monitoring to thousands of affected class members.
After the Settlement was reached, a fierce battle ensued when objectors, led by two lawyers, Darrell Palmer and Ted Frank, sought to destroy the Settlement. An appeal was taken to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As serial objectors, Frank and Palmer were not strangers to the class settlement objection process. They have faced serious criticism for their objections before other federal courts, and Mr. Palmer in particular has been singled out by courts for “bad faith” and “vexatious” behavior in filing his appeals.
In the present case, the PSC moved for Rule 11 sanctions, alleging bad faith against the lawyers due to questionable representations about facts surrounding their clients’ cases, including whether the clients even had standing to bring the appeals in the first place. While the Rule 11 sanctions are still pending, there is no question that these serial objectors have held this settlement hostage for way too long. The lawyers even objected to the Economic class, but they are now facing increasing pressure because their clients may not be class members for those claims either.
It is with this backdrop that the objector clients filed a motion late last month dropping their appeals and calling into question the lawyers’ representation and communications with them. In the motion, the three objectors said they fired their prior lawyers due to their “unauthorized and unapproved actions and conduct taken during the course of their former representation.” Ronnie Penton, a solo practitioner in Bogalusa, La., who now represents the three objectors—Florida property owners—said in court papers that the “appellants now realize, much to their extreme chagrin, prior counsel’s machinations and subterfuge, of which they were unaware and do not countenance.”
Because these objectors have dropped their appeal, we believe the Medical Settlement will now go forward and thousands of injured folks will be compensated. The compensation structure is based on whether a claimant is a clean up worker or a resident within the compensable zone, the symptoms sustained and the proof supporting the claim. Of particular importance is the 21 year medical consultation program, which monitors the health of class members to hopefully catch later-manifesting illnesses (like cancer) early. Class members will also be entitled to a back-end litigation option, so if a claimant develops a condition later in life related to the oil spill, they can sue BP for that illness.
Our firm has helped hundreds of injured clients in this litigation, and we are happy that this landmark settlement will go forward. Parker Miller is spearheading representation of these clients for the firm. If you have any questions about the Medical Settlement, please contact Parker at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com, or at 800.898.2034.
Source: The National Law Journal
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