+ The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, administered by Kenneth Feinberg, is up and running as of today. How Floridians will fare depends on how the fund interprets legal terms like “proximate cause.” (More after the jump; see also Andrew Restuccia’s reporting on Feinberg’s response to criticisms).
+ Some Floridians, including these members of the Pensacola business community, are awaiting a more amicable process under Feinberg.
+ Some scientists are wondering whether the spill is contributing to fish kills caused by low oxygen levels.
+ The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama Administration expected its deep-water drilling moratorium to cost thousands of oil industry jobs.
+ The spill response brought BP and the federal government together, The Associated Press notes.
Clarity coming on claims
Over the weekend, as Andrew Restuccia reports, incoming claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg defended the Gulf Coast Claims Facility — which opened for claims this morning — against criticisms, including those from Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.
Last week, I noted that one of McCollum’s qualms “involves the legal standard of ‘proximate causation,’ which could require claimants to prove that their losses are a direct consequence of the spill.”
Perhaps not the best choice of words. Suffice to say, it’s complicated.
Proximate cause “is without a doubt one of the most debated legal concepts, certainly within tort law,” says David A. Logan, dean of the Roger Williams University School of Law. Logan says the term can be easily misinterpreted because the word proximate often implies location or space in time. But in reality, Logan says, the term has a more “sophisticated and complex meaning.”
Richard A. Nagareda, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, says the number of steps in between the event in question and the damage incurred matters when determining proximate cause. “Does it flow naturally and in an unimpeded fashion from the defendant’s conduct or are there lots of other things that have to happen before the injury to the plaintiff results?” he says.
How that gets defined will become clear in the coming weeks, as claims are either accepted or denied, and the value of damages gets determined. Feinberg insists that his process will be more generous than one in any court — state or federal. But will that be enough to make Florida’s oil spill victims whole?