+Questions still surround the thorny issue of “proximity claims,” which cover the losses of businesses that suffered losses where the oil didn’t come ashore. More after the jump.
+Oil spill claimants who have had their cases “escalated” are still languishing, ProPublica reports.
+ProPublica has also partnered with PBS Frontline to produce a documentary on BP’s safety record, which airs tomorrow at 9 p.m.
+BP is “not quitting America,” according to its CEO.”Contrary to what is sometimes said, BP is not widely seen over there as ‘British Petroleum’; we’re part of the American community.”
+The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the federal government in an effort to reinstate the moratorium on deep-water drilling.
In a lengthy article Sunday, the New York Times reported that “virtually oil-free Florida just might hoover up the bulk of BP’s settlement money,” because “more than 100,000 entities in Florida,” most located far from any previously oiled beaches, may file claims. But who winds up getting paid will depend on decisions claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg has not yet made.
It was a can of worms opened earlier this month, when Feinberg decided that tourism-related businesses throughout the state would be eligible for claims.
But to what extent will they actually be compensated for their losses? A legal memo addressing these issues is expected “soon,” and the Nov. 23 deadline for filing emergency claims looms less than a month away.
As Mr. Feinberg would be the first to acknowledge, this won’t be easy. Florida plaintiffs might assume that juries will be sympathetic if these cases actually get to court. Then again, if plaintiffs overreach, BP might decide that it has no choice but to try its luck in the judicial system, betting that judges might toss out cases before they get to trial, or that big verdicts could be scaled back or even tossed out on appeal.
The trick for Mr. Feinberg is to sort through a jumble of legal minutiae, state politics and pitched emotion to find a solution that feels Solomonic to everyone, or at least better than the alternatives.
So far, Florida businesses and individuals have filed 78,603 claims with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which Feinberg oversees. That’s more than any other state besides Lousiana, where 104,282 claims have been filed.
Florida claimants have received some $535 million so far, also more than any state besides Louisiana.
But many big-ticket payments won’t come until later. Ned McWilliams of the law firm Levin Papantonio said during a forum in Gainesville hosted by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association that claimants are encouraged to bypass the emergency process and wait to file so-called final claims, unless they’re struggling to get by in the interim. The economic calculus that will determine the value of future losses is still being worked out.
What the article does make clear is that the wrangling over who winds up receiving oil spill payments and how much they get — which could have bigger financial implications for Florida than for any other state — did not end with Feinberg’s announcement earlier this month. The process of counting the cost and making the victims whole (or at least satisfied enough to stay out of court) is only beginning.