Public officials across the nation are speaking out against Kenneth Feinberg and his protocol for paying claims under his Gulf Coast Claims Facility (“GCCF”). The GCCF is the official way for individuals and businesses to file claims for costs and damages incurred after the Deepwater Horizon accident on April 20, 2010. The GCCF is administered by attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg, who was appointed over the summer to be a “neutral fund administrator” responsible for all decisions relating to the administration and processing of claims by the GCCF. However, his neutrality is being questioned by many nationwide, including the attorneys here at HH&K.
“Our biggest concern is for our clients’ well-being,” says Stephen Herman, a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee. “We have had serious issues with Feinberg’s protocol and for months, and while he was creating a guideline for his claims process under the GCCF, we have been asking for more transparency so that we can be certain that peoples’ rights are fully protected.”
In a letter dated November 16, Alabama Attorney General Troy King strongly criticized Feinberg and BP Oil for their handling of interim and final claims payments to citizens of the Gulf Coast. He describes Feinberg’s actions and statements as “misleading,” “inadequate,” “extortion,” “a delay in justice” and an attempt to force these citizens into accepting less than what they need and are entitled to from BP.
King expresses concern that Feinberg’s actions on behalf of BP were at the expense of those whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by BP, especially considering that BP is paying Feinberg’s firm $850,000 per month for their work on behalf of the oil company.
“I remain convinced that your protocol is unfair to Gulf Coast residents and businesses whose rights are being ignored, if not trampled, by it,” said Attorney General King.
Specifically, King cites Feinberg’s repeated concessions to BP that were detrimental to Gulf Coast citizens, including Feinberg’s statement that he does not intend to hold BP to their promise of paying 100% of any claims attributed to April’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Another example is Feinberg’s continued requirement for those with claims against BP to sign a full release of their legal rights to the benefit of BP and “other potentially responsible or liable parties.”
King attacks this lack of transparency behind Feinberg’s protocol, stating, “It seems only reasonable that, if a claimant is being asked to forever waive his right to sue BP.he should understand how and why his damages were calculated by the GCCF. With no calculation formula, your protocol lacks transparency and legitimacy.”
The Attorney General points out just what claimants are giving up by agreeing to sign a full release.
“Your protocol is misleading,” he writes. “Your protocol does not provide remedies for negligence, gross negligence, punitive damages, nuisance, trespass, or any other.remedy outside the parameters of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990..Claimants should not be lead to believe that they are begin compensated for damages which lie beyond the scope of [Feinberg’s] protocol.”
HH&K’s Soren Gisleson agrees with many of King’s comments, and primarily wants to draw attention to the fact that Feinberg’s protocol does not recognize punitive damages.
“Instead, Feinberg wants people to give up their rights to punitive damages,” says Gisleson. “Even though we still do not know the full extent of harm that the spill has caused, Feinberg still wants people to release not just BP for any and all damages, but also give up claims against Transocean and Haliburton. Additionally, Feinberg is taking people’s claims and using them against Transocean, Haliburton and the others to get BP’s money.”
King’s letter puts into words what many attorneys are concerned about – the way Feinberg has acted in isolation, ignoring his and several other Attorneys’ General offers to lend “legal and technical expertise,” which is further evidenced by the protocol’s lack of clarity.
If you have additional questions about the claims process, you may contact Soren Gisleson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 581-4892.