Ala. AG: Oil spill claimants 'reduced to begging for handouts'

By Alejandro de los Rios | Mar 22, 2011


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said his state "has reached a boiling point" in a letter he wrote to Kenneth Feinberg criticizing the Gulf Coast Claim Facility.

"The GCCF appears inappropriately proud of its recent announcement that it has managed to process 54 percent of final claims," Strange wrote.

"Of course, we both know that a large percentage of the 'processed' claims were merely rejected, often without the courtesy of being told why."

The letter raises a slew of concerns about Feinberg and the GCCF's handling of claims made by Alabama residents affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Strange claims that payments made to claimants "do not amount to much" and that despite Alabamians properly documenting claims, Feinberg is "simply turning them down for other reasons."

The letter also states that Strange's concerns "are just the tip of the iceberg" and says that the state's Department of Mental Health raised "significant concerns regarding Alabamians' mental welfare in the wake of the oil spill."

The letter states that claimants' mental health is being affected over frustration with the GCCF process and being "reduced to begging for handouts from an organization ... whose primary missions seems to be turning them down."

"Quit dragging your feet and stalling the large majority of claims to a point where victims are so desperate that they settle for anything," Strange writes at the end.

The letter is the latest in a long line of criticism leveled at Feinberg and the GCCF.

In February, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Governor Bobby Jindal filed a memo criticizing the GCCF with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the BP oil spill multidistrict litigation.

The memo criticized the GCCF for allegedly failing to comply with the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and that claimants should not be required to relinquish their right to sue BP in exchange for a final payment.

The Louisiana legislature also expressed concern with the GCCF and has formed a special committee to oversee the claims process.

In Florida state court, a marine salvage company filed a lawsuit against Feinberg and the GCCF alleging that they committed negligence and fraud in the claims process.

Attorneys for Feinberg have fired back against critics, stating the GCCF is "substantially exceeding" OPA's mandates.

On the flip side, BP has criticized Feinberg and the GCCF for handing out payments that are too high and that there "is no credible support for adopting an artificially high future loss."

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