BCA Press Release
Contact: Jay Jackson
Claims Settlement is ‘not what was presented to victims’ and ‘the vast majority of claimants will receive nothing”
Louisiana, US District Court, Eastern District - The Law Firm of Brent Coon & Associates today filed a motion to “re-notice” the class settlement – meaning, to ask the court to send notice to all participating businesses and individuals, making them aware that they would have the opportunity to leave (opt-out of) the settlement should they wish to pursue other legal remedies. Currently, only a very small percentage of people have been paid through the class and members of the class do not have the right to leave nor to seek further legal options as the class settlement required them to forfeit their right to sue BP.
With numerous changes, some minor, some major, the class settlement has evolved into something very different from its original form. Then, last year, came the appellate court ruling that brought 495, another significant policy change of increased document requirements, and now what tens of thousands of victims were being told they were getting into, is very different from where they find themselves. “The law is pretty clear,” says Brent Coon of Brent Coon & Associates the largest stakeholder in the litigation with over 10,000 clients “if the class changes, people need to be given the option to reconsider their decision to enter the class. And so today we’re doing something about it and getting the process started.”
“Basically, all these people are trapped”, said Jay Jackson, spokesperson for BCA, “they forfeited all of their legal rights and now they have no options. Worse, what they signed up for, what was promised to them, never materialized and instead, what did materialize was nothing like what the victims agreed to. Our motion changes all of that, it gives people a choice, to stay in the class and roll the dice, or opt-out and take BP to court with much less stringent requirements.”
The following is taken from BCA’s Memorandum of Renotice which accompanies the motion that was filed yesterday.
The Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement was presented as a butterfly, but turned out to be a buzzard. From the moment the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Class (the “Class) was announced, a constant drumbeat of its praises was sung both by BP and Class Counsel. These culminated at the fairness hearing were further adulation was lauded on the Class:
[The class] gives those businesses and individuals who suffered economic damages a way to quickly get a fair and objectively determined settlement and to avoid litigating for potentially 20 or more years, like what happened in the Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation. This settlement provides the class with an opportunity to try to put this behind them and get on with their lives.
-Jim Roy (Class Counsel)1
1 Transcript of Final Fairness Hearing Proceedings Heard before the Honorable Carl J. Barbier United States District Judge November 8, 2012 at Page 21 lines 7 through 14.
…we agreed to enter into two comprehensive and historic settlement agreements designed to fairly and generously compensate the legitimate claims of those who were injured as a result of the oil spill in this tragic casualty.
-Rick Godfrey (BP Counsel)2
Despite these assertions, the Class has clearly failed in its mission to provide compensation to many Gulf Coast residents harmed by the spill. The March 31, 2015 Report by the Claims Administrator of the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement on the Status of Claims Review, Status Report 31, contains numerous alarming statistics that show this:3
• Failed Business Economic Loss: only 35 out of 3611 submissions have been paid
• Start-Up Business Economic Loss: only 634 out of 5,017 submissions have been paid;
• Business Economic Loss: only 17,792 out of 81,610 submissions have been paid;
• Individual Economic Loss: only 6,148 out of 44,022 submissions have been paid;
• In total, the class has only paid 87,833 claimants out of 205,450 submissions with only 42,964 remaining to be processed.
• Out of the 87,833 claims that have been paid, 34,290 were Coastal Real Property and Vessel’s of Opportunity payments, which awarded relatively low dollar amounts and required almost no calculation.
Even worse, BP filed Motions in an attempt to get money back on the relatively few claims that have been paid. Upon the Court’s denial of the claim, BP has filed a Motion to Appeal, still seeking to claw back monies from the few business claimants that have already been paid. This Appeal is still looming over the heads of Gulf Coast residents and has been tentatively calendared for oral argument for the week of June 1, 2015.
“Add to that all of BP’s delay tactics which have already added years to the equation in their attempts to ‘starve out’ more claimants, and you have a unmitigated disaster for tens of thousands of victims” say Coon, “the fact is the vast majority of our clients feel justifiably duped and they want out.”
If the door open and the motion is accepted, Coon vows to tell a majority of his clients to ‘get out and take their chances with the legal system’, even if that means going to court. “The class was a good idea. But even good ideas can fail miserably. Now it up to us and the other law firms who are joining us, to try and fix this”, says Coon, “This motion by itself won’t get it done, but it’s a start.”
After Exxon turned the Valdez Oil Spill compensation efforts into a 20 year nightmare for the victims, Congress responded by passing the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), with limited and realistic ‘burden of proof’ requirements and the preservation on the victims right to go to court. The current settlement requirements are significantly more stringent and complex and requires those who do not opt-out to automatically forfeit all rights to further legal remedies.
“The Feinberg Settlement (GCCF) was never like this”, said Mr. Jackson, “you had a choice. If you didn’t like your offer, you retained your right to take BP to court. But once you’re trapped in this settlement, you have no options and you’ve already forfeited your right to take BP to court.” All this in stark contrast to the promises of “claimant friendly” and “transparent” that were presented by both sides in town hall meetings around the gulf. “They were eager to sell this, so they lied. ‘Easy fair and fast’ was their pitch”, says Jackson. “Now years later, the stalled and broken settlement has proved that the opposite is the norm in every one of these categories.”
If the GCCF (the Feinberg program) was working, why did the settlement happen in the first place? Why, overnight, did the GCCF disappear – and why was it replaced with the massive and now treacherous class action settlement? – with its 1033 pages of rules, zones and complications? For BP, the settlement represented a way to keep hundreds of thousands of claims out of court, protecting it from large verdicts and billions of dollars in litigation costs. For the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, it was simply a way to get paid…at least 600 Million dollars will go to the handful law firms rewarded for sitting in the driver’s seat.
About Brent Coon & Associates and their fight against BP:
BCA has built the most comprehensive understanding of BP’s corporate culture of any law firm in the world and built through years of legal research for hundreds of lawsuits filed against BP and is now at the epicenter of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
Brent Coon & Associates was the lead counsel in the BP Texas City Explosion of March 23, 2005, representing hundreds of affected workers in what was at that time the largest lawsuit against BP.
BCA reviewed seven million documents, taped over 10,000 hours of depositions from BP employees and industry experts, spent millions of dollars and took the fight to depose BP’s CEO Lord John Browne all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.
Brent Coon is regularly seen on CNN, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America and CNBC and is quoted on BP legal strategy in virtually every major media outlet in the country as the "world’s leading expert on BP's corporate culture"
Uncovering explosive evidence, BCA has worked hand-in-hand with the Department of Justice, OSHA and the National Chemical Safety Board.
BCA played a pivotal role in establishing the occurrences of multiple, major safety violations resulting in millions of dollars in fines, penalties and criminal charges and was chosen to represent the Oklahoma Attorney’s General’s Office in their price fixing litigation against BP.
Following the Texas City Explosion litigation, Brent Coon was responsible for initiating the program which gave over 40 million dollars to charities and universities to landmark safety programs and advancements in industrial and petrochemical health care.
Brent Coon personally wrote the “Remember The 15” Bill which was introduced to the State Legislature of Texas. The bill outlined several proposed regulations to improve overall safety levels in industrial plants throughout the gulf coast region.
BCA has a full-time internal investigative team to help determine the root cause of industrial explosions and represents the United Steelworkers (District 13) and other labor unions along with clients that were on board the Deepwater Horizon.
Brent Coon was named “Lawyer of the Year” by the American Association of Justice for his work in the BP Texas City litigation.