Recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed objector appeals to the Plaintiff Steering Committee’s landmark Medical Settlement reached with BP. Objectors had previously appealed the Settlement, claiming it did not compensate class members properly and fairly. However, the objections fell apart when a dispute arose between lawyers pressing the objections, and their objector clients. With these obstacles resolved and the effective date set at Feb. 12, 2014, the Medical Settlement can finally move forward toward compensating cleanup workers and residents physically harmed by the oil spill.
Class members are typically divided into two distinct categories – cleanup workers and residents that lived in close proximity to oiled shorelines. The settlement provides up-front compensation for claimants in these categories who suffered the common conditions and symptoms from exposure to oil and dispersant chemicals. In addition, the settlement provides for a free 21-year medical consultation program designed to monitor affected residents and cleanup workers suffering from spill conditions.
Participants begin with a thorough baseline test, with follow-up visits every three years. The medical consultation program is a crowning achievement of the settlement, as it is designed to help those without proper medical care catch ailments early – regardless of whether they are spill-related or not. Should a claimant develop a later manifested illness caused by the spill, the settlement allows the claimant a back-end litigation option, whereby claimants are allowed to file suit for compensatory damages against BP should they discover a later manifested illness caused by the oil spill. In addition to claimant-specific remedies, the settlement will provide millions of dollars to the Gulf Coast to fund treatment and educational programs for those affected by the oil spill.
While the Settlement, as written, should be good for those affected by the oil spill, all eyes will understandably be on BP given its recent antics in the Economic Settlement. With the public’s trust level at an all-time low, many are left to wonder whether BP will seek to renege on this agreement as well. I believe that the Courts and the Claims Administrator will force BP to keep its promises and compensate those hurt by the spill.
All in all, the medical benefits settlement is yet another major achievement for the Gulf Coast. If you need additional information on this settlement, contact Parker Miller, a lawyer in our firm who is involved in the BP litigation, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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