Wednesday, May 19, 2010


By Knox Boteler, Attorney at Law
As the great oil spill looms off our shoreline, we continue to monitor BP’s handling of the crisis. While BP American CEO Lamar McKay stated his company will pay “all legitimate claims” for economic damages, regardless of the expense, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) passed by Congress after the Exxon Valdez spill caps BP’s exposure to economic damages at $75 million dollars. BP has already admitted this limit will be exceeded by claimants. Within the last several days, bills were introduced in Congress that would increase the $75 million cap. Senator Jeff Sessions (AL) has introduced one of those bills. To date, such attempts appear futile as the bills are facing opposition from big oil supporters.
Boteler & Wolfe is working toward the best solutions for our clients to overcome the caps to recover direct and indirect economic damages. In one case, a class action has been jointly filed with a law firm in Missouri on behalf of landowners in Baldwin County. If the landowners show that BP and other responsible parties have engaged in willful neglect, gross misconduct, or violations of safety rules, the $75 million dollar cap will be defeated. Another alternative for victims to consider is a claims process established by the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC). The NPFC is responsible for the administration of claims funded by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF). This fund allows for the payment of up to $1 billion toward economic damages. Potential claimants that can utilize this process include individuals, corporations, local governments, and many others. Potential claims that can be sought against the fund are real and personal property damage, removal costs, loss of profits and earning capacity, and loss of subsistence. While this alternative to litigation requires a claimant to first seek restitution from BP and other responsible parties through a claims procedure established by the companies, the administrative process may prove beneficial for certain classes of victims.
Irregardless of the alternative a victim utilizes for restitution, BE PATIENT with the process. The responsible parties for the disaster will attempt to resolve claims quickly. Do not fall victim to the companies’ strategies and ploys. Frankly, the environmental impact to our area will not be fully understood for some time. As always, we are available to answer any questions you or your family have regarding the spill. Please feel free to email me your questions at or contact the office.