Stuart Smith: “Who Gets Final BP Payments?”

February 2, 2011

Gulf Coast Claims Facility releases framework for deciding who gets final settlements for oil spill damages and how payments for future losses will be determined


FROM STUART H. SMITH, who is representing a range of clients from the United Commercial Fisherman’s Association to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network along with hotels, resorts, and other businesses along the Gulf Coast.

As quoted this morning in the New York Times (“Report Foresees Quick Gulf of Mexico Recovery,” John Schwartz & Mark Schrope): I have ‘serious concerns’ about the newly released GCCF plan, because I don’t think that it sufficiently takes into consideration the ‘uncertainty factor.’

In determining fair final settlements we must accurately assess the long-term impact the spill is going to have on victims. In my opinion, this plan may assume too quick of a recovery for the Gulf. And I think you’re going to hear a lot of those types of concerns coming from people during the two-week comment period that begins today (Feb. 2).

This is about the best interest of our clients: Getting them fair compensation for their damages – and doing so in a reasonably short period of time. We feel the best way to do that, at this time, is through negotiations with Ken Feinberg and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). And we are working through that process now.

You have to understand that our goal was never to just “sue the bastards,” as much as we might enjoy that particular tactic. The goal is – and has to be – what’s best for our individual clients.

We are hopeful that we can negotiate fair settlements for our clients based on a well-thought-out damages model that will fairly calculate compensation based on a variety of factors including: past loss; likely future loss; and an estimation of the likely duration of the harmful effects of the oil spill on victims.

To that end and with the assistance of expert economists and accountants, we are providing the GCCF with accurate and defensible loss calculations in an attempt to secure fair and full recovery for our clients.

Let’s not forget that there are inherent risks to litigation – and the old adage “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” pertains. But make no mistake, if we can’t settle these cases for fair and just compensation for our clients, we will go to Court. And we are proceeding as such. We are continuing our scientific investigations to build the strongest possible foundation for litigation – and as an attorney who has won the largest property damage jury verdict ever against an oil company, Exxon, in the amount of $1.056 billion, I know what it takes to go all the way.

We sincerely hope to have a fair resolution to our clients’ claims in the coming weeks or months.

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