A lawsuit filed against the Gulf Coast Claims Fund (GCCF) and its administrator Kenneth Feinberg alleges that he and his firm have committed fraud, gross negligence, fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment through the BP oil spill claims process.
Tampa, Fla. attorney Brian Donovan filed the 42-page complaint on behalf of Pinellas Marine Salvage Inc. in Florida state court, according to a statement released by the Donovan Law Group.
The lawsuit claims Feinberg and the GCCF have circumvented "many of the rights provided to victims of the BP oil spill under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990." It also claims that the defendants "employ a 'delay, deny, defend" strategy against claimants.
According to Donovan's press release, Feinberg and the GCCF are withholding payments to claimants "indefinitely" as they await "substantiation."
Feinberg is also using scare tactics, namely "the fear of costly and protracted litigation to coerce claimants to accept grossly inadequate settlements from the GCCF," the release states.
The suit also claims that Feinberg misled Gulf Coast residents who attended town hall meetings with him when he said that the GCCF would be fully funded in the amount of $20 billion, when at the end of 2010 there was only $5 billion in the account.
Pinellas Marine is a Florida "full-service marine salvage facility" servicing gulf states from Florida to Louisiana and that is now "struggling to survive" as a result of Feinberg's actions.
Feinberg has come under fire from plaintiff lawyers in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Plaintiff and government attorneys have questioned whether the GCCF and Feinberg are complying with the OPA.
Recently, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier – who is overseeing oil spill multi-district litigation in the Eastern District of Louisiana – ruled that Feinberg was indeed an agent of BP and instructed him and the GCCF to modify their claims forms to clarify that stance.
At a Feb. 25 status conference, Barbier said he would rule on whether the GCCF was complying with OPA once he read over arguments from all parties.