The MDL Court in New Orleans overseeing the BP oil spill litigation as finally weighed in on the delays associated with payment of monies owed to the Seafood industry devastated by the 2010 oil spill. The settlement agreement reached between victims of the spill in that highly affected industry and BP counsel in 2012 has been delayed in funding due to a myriad of legal maneuvers initiated by BP after they inked the deal and bragged about how they were “stepping up to the plate” to timely address compensation. The Court has ordered the immediate release of $500,000,000.00 owed to claimants who proved their losses to an independent claims administrator and phalanx of accounting firm resources subsequent to the settlement agreement.
Brent Coon, who represents hundreds of shrimpers and a significant number of the Gulf of Mexico shrimping fleet boat owners and captains, has been highly critical of the BP settlement strategies and questionable public relations initiatives from the very beginning of the litigation. Coon’s firm is the represents a consortium of law firms and is believed to have the largest volume of stakeholder claims in the litigation, with roughly 10,000 cases from a myriad of affected industries impacted from the spill from Florida to Texas.
“Our firm has been retained by a number of businesses and employees financially devastated from the oil spill in 2010 and most have yet to be compensated for their losses. Coastal tourism and the impact on the seafood industry not only killed those business sectors at the time, but caused a huge ripple effect in economies primarily reliant on those core businesses for revenue. Thousands of businesses were not able to sustain the impact of those losses and went under. Tens of thousands of others barely survived and are still financially scrambling to make up for the losses and capital demands necessary to stay afloat and ride it out”.
Coon points out that only a small fraction of those companies have been paid to date. “Even under the agreements reached to date, BP and the claims administrators overseeing payments would concede that less than 1 percent of the companies who closed their doors as a result of the spill have been compensated (33 paid claims out of 3917 claims filed). These statistics come directly from the fund administrator’s monthly reports. It is a pathetic effort by a major international corporation to avoid liability for egregious wrongs, which includes the fact that the court has already found their conduct in causing the spill to be reckless and grossly negligent in nature, subjecting it to punitive damages. While we would be happy to see BP actually be forced to pay on those punitive damages, we have yet to have much success even getting them to pay compensatory damages”.
Now that the MDL Court has ORDERED BP to make these payments per an agreement reached over two years ago, it remains to be seen whether they will lodge yet another round of appeals to further delay the process of compensating the Seafood industry claimants.
Coon continues, “BP has sought appellate relief on just about every adverse ruling to date in this case, and were successful in obtaining an injunction for almost a full year for having to pay ANY claims in the case. Even now we still have claimants who have not received the first dime of even partial compensation, including claims of persons who were injured while working aboard the rig on that fateful day”.
“It is very disillusioning when dealing with a major oil company like BP that even after they agree in writing to pay people, and those people then forego their right to proceed forward to trial, that BP would then try to renege on their agreements and delay funding unnecessarily for years. Even now we anticipate another round of appeals on this court ruling, and we still have yet to receive a final order for the payment of the balance of the other remaining $500,000,000.00 that BP agreed back in 2012 to pay to settle those claims”
“The entire seafood industry was duped into entering into an agreement with a corporation that had a long history of malfeasance, the highest level of noncompliance with industry safety regulations, and the responsibility for more fatalities in the petrochemical industry over the last decade than all their competitors combined, not to mention 26 counts and convictions of felony manslaughter in the last 6 years. It should be no surprise that a mass murdering company who spends their corporate life on criminal probation would simply refuse to honor agreements previously entered into for their wrongdoing. Hopefully the court orders on this subject will at least slowing move the ball forward in finally achieving some since of closure for at least one of the most heavily damaged industries from this spill. Only time will tell”.
View the Order