BP Violates Oil-Pollution Law in Gulf Spill Claims Process, Lawyers Say
By Margaret Cronin Fisk and Laurel Brubaker Calkins
BP Plc is using “coercive tactics” to force victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill to agree to final settlements with a claims fund, lawyers suing the company said.
BP set up the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility claims fund to pay emergency, interim and final payments to victims of the spill, under the provisions of the U.S. Oil Pollution Act. Lawyers for property owners, businesses and others claiming harm from the spill say victims have been forced to sign releases for inadequate payments because they could no longer afford to wait for full compensation.
The fund has violated the pollution law’s requirement to pay interim claims and asked a federal judge to appoint a special master to oversee the process, the lawyers said in court papers today in federal court in New Orleans. They also asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the litigation, to “suspend the effectiveness” of any releases signed by spill victims who received claims fund money.
“BP has failed to comply with the letter and spirit of OPA, a law designed to provide an interim claims process,” the lawyers said. The primary function of the claims process has been to convince victims “that the only compensation available is a minimal set amount that comes with a full release attached,” they said.
The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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