U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier has approved a second round of payments to eligible commercial fisherman who filed claims with the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claims Center. To date, claimants have been paid just over $1 billion of the agreed upon $2.3 billion Seafood Compensation Program fund. Judge Barbier accepted the recommendations of a seafood neutral to release $500 million at this time while the remaining seafood claims are currently being resolved. Payments will be awarded on a pro rata basis based on the size of a claimant’s original claim. Any funds remaining after this second distribution will be distributed in a manner later determined by Judge Barbier.
Although BP agreed to pay the entire $2.3 billion fund, it expectedly challenged aspects of this amount and sought to delay payment to those commercial fishermen who were clearly impacted by the oil spill. First, it tried to lower the fund amount by claiming it was based on fictitious claimants. Second, it argued that the Settlement Program failed to establish sufficient oversight procedures to prevent the payment of what BP perceived to be fraudulent claims. Most recently, BP attempted to postpone the second distribution while only a handful of claims remain unsettled.
This is yet another example of a corporate giant searching for any way to save a few bucks and prevent compensating victims it agreed to pay. Fortunately, Judge Barbier concluded that BP would not be harmed by a second round of payments that represent less than one-half the remaining funds. We believe the second distribution will begin sometime this year and look forward to obtaining this compensation on our clients’ behalf.
Source: The Times-Picayune
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