Uncertainty surrounds changes in BP claims fund

Alejandro de los Rios Nov. 22, 2010, 9:16am


With a deadline to file emergency claims related to the BP oil spill set Nov. 23, uncertainty remains as to how the claims process will continue.

Speaking at a status conference for the BP Multi-District Litigation (MDL) at the Eastern District of Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said there has been some confusion as to how the claims process will change moving forward.

Barbier called on special master Francis McGovern, who's talked with BP claims administrator Ken Feinberg about how the process is set to change, but offered little details.

McGovern said that Nov. 23 marks the last day anyone can file a six-month emergency claim, and after that claimants will have the option of filing an interim claim or a permanent claim.

McGovern, a law professor at Duke University, said the only thing he is certain of is that interim payments will last three months and permanent claims will be six-month payments in which claimants will be required to sign a full release of all defendants.

Barbier tried to seek details about whether the claims process will change in any way, but McGovern was hesitant to provide any concrete details differentiating between interim and permanent claims. He said that "the best way to define the standards that they will be using is to say that they will define their own standards."

"This is starting to sound like a law school class," Barbier joked.

McGovern said that, though details about the standards of the new claims process are uncertain, he expects them to adhere to the three-year statue of limitations on claims as mandated by the Oil Pollution Act.

Recently, Feinberg sent a letter to Barbier's court stating that the Gulf Coast Claims Fund (GCCF) will be in full compliance of any court order regarding preservation of evidence.

To date, the GCCF has paid over $1.9 billion in claims to some 395,000 claimants in the Gulf Coast. BP attorneys said that the GCCF is awaiting documents from over 149,0000 claims and that around 80,000 claims were submitted without any documents whatsoever.

Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179

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