Attorneys for Fishermen Secure BP Cooperation for Better Oil Claims Process, But Say Serious Problems Remain

Jun 11, 2010, 13:46 ET from Smith Stag LLC

DESTIN, Fla., June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida business owners, residents and those impacted by the Gulf oil catastrophe now have a more fair and secure process to document their claims against BP following the Gulf oil spill, thanks to the latest efforts of attorneys who represent them and continue to push BP to address the serious problems that remain in the claims process.

The attorneys, following weeks of negotiations with BP, have reached the following agreements with the managing attorneys of BP Oil Spill Claims of Houston. The agreements extend to claims filed in Florida and the other affected Gulf states:

  1. A claim, when made under the Oil Pollution Act, will be given a claim number; but the 90-day window in which the claim is activated will only begin once a claim with application substantiation has been verbally discussed with an adjuster from BP.
  2. BP acknowledges that most claims being processed at this time are income replacement claims.
  3. With business interruption claims, fixed costs such as vessel and hotel maintenance, etc. must be documented.
  4. For businesses with a large number of employees who may have to be laid off, BP would like to deal with the businesses and their attorneys for all of those claims, and let the business be the contact with the employee.
  5. Claimants with lawyers will not be treated any differently than those without.
  6. BP will maintain the confidentiality of all claimants' financial information.
  7. BP has agreed to hire more multi-lingual translators to process claims.

The Court also indicated that BP should cooperate with plaintiff's counsel in determining whom to appoint as the independent mediator that BP announced yesterday would be overseeing claims-payment process for damages caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"Because of our efforts, we've gone from a completely arbitrary and verbal BP claims process to one which requires a written form, guarantees of confidentiality for claimants' financial information, and pledges that individuals who have retained legal counsel cannot be discriminated against in the process," said Attorney Stuart Smith, Smith Stag LLC.

"These guarantees, made in reaction to the pleadings of Louisiana fisherman, are extended to all U.S. citizens and now strengthened thanks to the interests of Florida landowners and businesses."

Since May 15, attorneys who are handling claims related to the Gulf oil spill recovery by property and business owners in the Florida Panhandle, as well as fishermen in Louisiana and Gulf Coast states, have sought a federal court and/or a "special master" to provide oversight and guidance in the claims processing program initiated by BP. The claims were filed as a result of damages and lost income due to the expanding DEEPWATER HORIZON catastrophe.

"I am very pleased that my attorneys have been able to advance this case so rapidly," said George Barasich, President of the United Commercial Fisherman's Association. "Initially, BP said they were going to give us $5,000 a month, but now they want all this information that isn't realistic to the way that we do our work.  Our primary concern is, what does BP consider to be a legitimate claim? Who is going to do the evaluation?"

The motion for court supervision, or alternatively to appoint a special master or special master over claims continues even though the federal court indicated that BP should cooperate with plaintiff's counsel. Due to the on-going court action, BP decided to work with the fishermen's attorneys to appoint an independent mediator to oversee claims-payment process for damages caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 

As these claimants continue to seek a "special master" in U.S. District Court, Eastern District, BP agreed to add definition to its claims process, according to Mr. Smith. He said negotiations with BP continue until a Special Master is appointed.

Mr. Smith is working with an association of affiliated attorneys from Texas to Florida representing the United Commercial Fishermen's Association, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and businesses impacted by the Gulf oil disaster.

He said these and other issues will be discussed at seminars in Florida. These events are:

Wednesday, June 16

5:30 p.m.

Key Largo

Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort

Thursday, June 17

5:30 p.m.

Bonita Springs

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort

For more information go to: or