Practicing in the Gulf? You Should Know About BP’s Howard Feinberg…And A Few Out-Of-The-Ordinary Claims

If you’re practicing in the Gulf region, you should know about a Washington attorney whose self-declared professional mission is to steer plaintiffs out of court in the matter of the BP oil spill. This is not the case of apparent altruism…no.  Instead, this man is administrator of a $20 billion fund set up for that purpose, and he’s making no bones about the fact that he is ready to award monies to those who claim to have been victimized by the spill.  

And in the process—as one would expect when such a liberal amount of monies is offered to so many people–he’s received a few unexpected claims.  

The fund, put in place by BP and the Obama administration, allows this attorney, whose name is Kenneth Feinberg (pictured here), to travel the Gulf region in search of residents and business owners who will agree to come to him so that he may settle their claims.  

He’s so far received claims from 494,246 claimants and paid out $3.46 million. Most of these were run-of-the mill individuals or companies but, along the way he’s attracted what a recent WSJ Law Blog refers to as “over eager claimants”.  At the very least, these claimants have been able to inject some humor into the situation which has thus far been fraught with drama and conflict.   

The oil slick, which has also been referred to as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, occurred for three months in 2010 and was the largest accidental marine oil spill in petroleum history.  The oil slick was so massive that it was able to be seen from NASA’s Terra satellite (see here).

Two area law firms, eager to court possible claimant-clients, have passed out flyers which read that if you were fishing at the time and the water got too oily for you, they’d like to talk to you. According to the WSJ, the Diaz, Porter & Malouf and Richard Schwartz law firms, both in Mississippi, let folks know that: “If you have a saltwater fishing license and were unable to fish during the oil spill, [you are invited to] please attend one of the following meetings…”   The flyer then lists meetings, and asks them to bring their ID and valid fishing licenses from the time of the spill.  

A couple of blogs were agog about the issue, with one contributor getting all huffy about: “filing a suit because it ruined a couple of months of what you ENJOY doing…”   Feinberg declined comment and it was still unclear whether these fishing enthusiasts’ claims would be entertained.  

However, Porter—one of the attorneys who put out the flyer—admitted they may need to litigate, and defends his firm’s position by saying that not all of these fishermen and fisherwomen were hobbyists…some, he said, had made fishing their livelihood.   He mentioned “loss of sustenance” and “loss of natural resources”.   

There were other unusual claims, like the 4,000 form letters from the letterhead of the Plaquemines Parish government.  Each letter left a line blank for claimants to manually fill in the amount they were asking for.   And Feinberg also received a claim from a restaurant worker who made $18,000 last year, but asked for $5.9 million in emergency funds. To read more, go to: http://on.wsj.com/f4y3xj and to this well-sourced Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill

-EM

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