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What is fair for the BP claimants?

January 18, 2012

Less than 2 years has passed since the Deep Water Horizon disaster in which 11 rig employees were killed and over 200 million gallons of crude oil was released from the bottom of the Gulf.  Claimants are starting receiving their final settlements.  As of January 10, 2012, $6.3 billion of the $20 billion BP set aside for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), a victim compensation fund headed by Ken Feinberg, has been paid out to nearly 200,000 claimants.  By contrast, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster took nearly two decades of lengthy legal battles, for which the plaintiffs received $1.3 billion in damages.  The GCCF process has been praised by many lawyers representing claimants for being an easier and faster alternative to court for getting damages for their clients.  Some legal experts are saying that their clients have received more on average from GCCF than if they had gone to court.

However, not everyone has been as enamored with the GCCF process.  A class action suit has been filed against Feinberg and GCCF.  The plaintiffs have argued that the process is taking advantage of the dire circumstances they find themselves in.  Feinberg and GCCF have been forcing these claimants to accept quick settlements, that are followed by promises not to sue because they are offered no other viable option.  Whether you believe the process is fair or predatory, some claimants are getting money now, when they can’t afford to wait another week.

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