A little more than two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico spilled millions of gallons of oil into the waters of the Gulf, the proposed terms of a settlement agreement are being considered by all involved. The original disposition of funds from BP was being handled by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that was established by President Barack Obama and was being overseen by the Washington law firm run by Kenneth Feinberg. That phase of the distribution of funds is being phased out and will be assumed by the Court-Supervised Settlement Program, which is anticipating the assignment of just under $8 billion dollars when all is said and done.
This change means two things to the deadlines for claims: for those pursuing a claim under the Quick Payment program being administered by the GCCF, the deadline has been extended from May 7th 2012 to June 11th 2012 for acceptance of offers. Those who will file claims under the newly organized program will have until April 22, 2014. The Quick Payment program provides for a payment of $5,000 for individuals claiming financial losses and $25,000 for businesses, with the caveat that no further claims can be filed.
The changes to the process came as a result of a class action lawsuit against BP. The suit was filed by over 100,000 businesses and residents claiming both financial and medical damages as a result of the BP spill in April 2010. Under the terms of the proposed agreement, claimants will no longer have to prove that the spill caused damages; there will be a presumption that those who worked and lived in a defined geographical area were harmed. Medical claimants will need to provide documentation of diagnosis and expenses, while those who have suffered economic hardships will be able to provide documentation of both economic losses and hardships caused by lack of projected growth. The method of proving both of these points has been spelled out; loss of profits can be based on any three out of eight months following the spill as compared to profits from the same time period before the spill. Loss of growth will be based on proof of trends within the individual business’ growth trends as well as trends within their specific industry outside of the region affected by the spill.