Gulf Coast AGs warn oil spill claimants

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Dec 17, 2010

Alabama Attorney General Troy King

MOBILE, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Attorneys general in Gulf Coast states are urging all claimants in the Gulf oil spill fund to "proceed with caution" in evaluating whether to accept an offer of final payment or quick final payment, or to sign a release.

In a letter to claimants on Thursday, the attorneys general for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi said those considering making a quick final payment claim should evaluate whether their total possible damages exceed the set amount offered for such claims -- $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses.

Claimants, they said, also should be aware that by accepting either form of final offer and signing the release, they are agreeing that they can never recover any additional money from BP or any other responsible party for damages resulting from the oil spill.

An explosion and fire occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

On Monday, Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Ken Feinberg announced the GCCF's next phase, which will include three payment options: interim payments, final payments and quick final payments.

All claimants who elect to accept a final payment or quick final payment are required to sign an extensive release that would bar them from any future recovery for damages caused by the oil spill.

The four attorneys general have raised concerns regarding the release.

The GCCF final payment system, they said, requires the claimant to predict all possible damages, current and future, that the claimant will ever incur from the spill.

"Due to the speculative nature of estimating a final claim value and the breadth of the GCCF release, the attorneys general advise claimants against accepting any form of final payment or signing any release without first thoroughly reviewing and understanding the GCCF's terms," according to a statement by the attorneys general. "Claimants are strongly encouraged to consult with counsel before signing any final claim paperwork with the GCCF."

They continued, "The attorneys general are continuing to press Mr. Feinberg and BP to make improvements to the GCCF final protocol and release. However, in the meantime, claimants may file interim claims to recover their currently known damages without having to sign any release."

Those claimants with questions or concerns are advised to contact their Attorney General's Office, local bar or legal aid organization or attorney for assistance.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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