|August 20, 2010
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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Attorney General McCollum today sent a letter to Ken Feinberg expressing strong objections to the claims process Feinberg has announced to replace the BP Claims Process which has been in place since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Feinberg takes over the BP claims process on Monday, which will be known as the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). The Attorney General specifically noted that, despite weeks of efforts by his office and other attorneys general, the protocol falls far short of even the minimal protections mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), directly contradicts many of Feinberg’s own public statements regarding the claims process, and appears to violate the law.
“The appointment of an independent Administrator of a facility to process the Deepwater Horizon claims of individuals and businesses was meant to replace and improve upon the claims process that BP had implemented,” wrote the Attorney General. “However, the current process appears to be even less generous to Floridians than the BP process. Such an outcome is completely unacceptable.”
“As Florida’s chief legal officer, I must again respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the law applicable to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility process,” continued the Attorney General. “The GCCF was proposed as an alternative to the BP claims process, which was seen as lacking credibility and efficiency. However, the GCCF was never contemplated as a means of reducing the requirements for an OPA claims process.”
The Attorney General went on to outline several major flaws in the protocol, including the following issues:
Proximate Causation: The protocol includes language requiring a claimant to show that his or her damages were “proximately caused” by the oil spill. This requirement places a heavier burden of proof upon a claimant than is required by OPA. This ambiguity disserves the public, is contrary to the goal of obtaining compensation for damages without the need for litigation, and violates OPA.
Limitation on the Right to File Interim Claims: The protocol proposes a limitation on the time and ability of claimants to file “interim claims” with no legal basis for doing so. Interim payments are a required part of the OPA claims process, and payment of such claims cannot and should not be at the complete discretion of the administrator.
Refiling of Claims: Today’s announcement of the new protocol indicates that, although all pending claims previously filed with BP will be transferred to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for “review, evaluation, and determination,” claimants will still be required to refile their claims with the GCCF using the new 18-page claims form unveiled by Feinberg today. However, nothing in the protocol itself makes it clear that such refiling is required. Claimants with pending claims should not and cannot be required to refile and thus restart the 90-day clock provided in OPA for processing their claims, especially since BP has admitted delaying the processing of thousands of claims in anticipation of the GCCF beginning operations. It is also unclear what will happen if claimants do not refile their claims.
A copy of the letter is available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/KGRG-88HRS4/$file/EmergencyAdvancePayments.pdf