Monday, November 15, 2010

Oil Spill Update for Business Owners

BP Oil Spill/Gulf Coast Claims Facility
update by Knox Boteler, Attorney at Law

By now, many Gulf Coast business owners have proceeded with or contemplated the filing of a claim for loss of business revenue with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Though the Feinburg Fund is in its third month of operation and the first of many deadlines are facing claimants later this month, no one is still sure what criteria is being used when administering a claim. While there have been repeated requests by our firm and others for additional information regarding the handling of claims, no response has been provided from the administrators. That said, please consider the following when making a claim against the “responsible parties.” Frankly, there are several pitfalls in the claims process that has not been communicated to the public:

Individuals and businesses may submit a claim for Emergency Advance Payment until November 23, 2010. The evaluation of an Emergency Advance Payment - up to six (6) months of losses - will, supposedly, be reviewed under a less rigorous standard than will be used for the Final Payment claim. Claimants can accept Emergency Advance Payments and reject the final payment if they find it to be unsatisfactory.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility declared all claimants must apply for final payment of long term damages by August 23, 2013. However, we would encourage everyone to file ninety (90) days before this deadline because of concerns we have with the legal application of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). Should you wait less than ninety (90) days from the deadline to bring a claim, you may be barred from filing a lawsuit.

Claimants accepting a final payment of long-term damages require the claimant to waive their right to sue BP or any of the parties responsible for the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Geographic proximity to the spill will not in itself prevent a legitimate claim from being processed. When submitting your claim, it may be beneficial for you to include a google earth map showing your business location. Too, it may be of benefit to include in your claim a brief description of your practice and the customers you serve.

At this point, DO NOT FILE FINAL CLAIMS. The claims process for final payments has not yet been established. Those persons and entities that have filed such claims will have no choice but to wait until those parameters have been set.

If your Emergency Advance Payment has been denied, you need to file a final claim before filing a lawsuit. It is not known whether a denial of an Emergency Advance Payment is a “denial” as defined by OPA.

A claim needs to state a specific dollar amount to meet OPA requirements. Also, be sure to include a claim not just for your business losses, but, also, the cost for assessing damages (accountant, appraiser, etc.). In addition, include an amount for PUNITIVE DAMAGES. While Feinburg has repeatedly stated the Fund will not consider punitive damages, it is necessary to include such a damage in order to prevent a waiver of such claim if a lawsuit has to be brought.

We anticipate the expiration of Emergency Advance Payment claims later this month will bring more criticism to the fund. Simply put, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has only paid out a fraction of what is owed to Alabama businesses. Hopefully, this criticism will be to the benefit of all claimants, and we can write you with information that does not contain loopholes or pitfalls. In the meantime, for those of you that have made or will be making claims, please do not hesitate to contact us with questions regarding the claims process.

Please contact us if you believe you will need assistance in the presentation of your claim or would like further guidance.

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