A legal memo intended to advise oil spill claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg on who is entitled to compensation suggests that many Florida claims by businesses located in areas the oil never reached may not be eligible for damages under the federal Oil Pollution Act.

  • A commercial fisherman barred from fishing in oil-covered waters
  • A hotel whose guests use waters or beaches that were covered in oil (but not necessarily located right on an oiled beach)
  • An employee of that hotel lost wages because the hotel had fewer guests
  • A barge operator on a river that was obstructed by an oil slick and the cleanup crews working to remove it (this case is not quite as clear-cut as the first three, but still likely to be found eligible, according to the memo)

Possibly eligible:

  • A real estate agent selling beachfront property in an area affected by the oil
  • A furniture store near an oiled beach that suffered lower sales due to a decline in tourist traffic
  • A seaside restaurant whose clientele consisted predominantly of commercial fishermen who lost income as a direct result of damaged natural resources

In Goldberg’s words, “it could conceivably be appropriate to interpret OPA generously to permit these claims.”

  • A beachfront hotel located 100 miles from the nearest oiled beach, but where oil was projected to reach at some point, though this never came to pass
  • A tour boat operator located 400 miles from the nearest oiled beach suffered losses due to misinformation about where the oil went
  • An inland fireworks stand on the road to a Gulf Coast tourism hub
  • An inland tourist destination that suffered losses because many of its visitors are also drawn to Florida’s beaches
  • A Nevada hotel that hosts conventions for the gulf seafood industry, which suffered a loss of traffic due to the spill
  • A seafood restaurant owner in Arizona whose customers were spooked by reports that gulf seafood could contain oil
  • A Connecticut company that sells snorkeling equipment that suffers a decline in sales
  • A gas station targeted by a boycott
  • A caterer serving an oil company’s corporate headquarters suffers because the company slashes expenses

Again, these points address how Goldberg believes these claims are likely to be viewed in court, not how they will be treated by Feinberg, who has pledged to be “more generous” in his assessments.

Sandi Copes, the communications director for Florida’s attorney general, Bill McCollum, said Mr. McCollum appreciated Mr. Feinberg’s willingness to consider claims without any limitation on geographic proximity.

Goldberg Memorandum of Law

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