MIAMI BEACH -- The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) has received just shy of 350,000 emergency claims and paid out about $1.7 billion on just under 100,000 of them as of Nov. 5, according to Michael Rozen of Feinberg Rozen LLP in New York.
Rozen is the law partner of GCCF Administrator Kenneth Feinberg, who was named by President Obama on June 16 to handle the $20 billion BP escrow fund set up to pay claims stemming from the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rozen told attendees of HB Litigation Conferences' Oil in the Gulf - Litigation & Insurance Coverage conference at the Fontainebleau here that the emergency claim portion of the GCCF's program ends Nov. 23. As of Nov. 5, Rozen, said, about 155,000 of the claims received need more documentation to process. Almost all of the paid claims have dealt with lost earnings and profits. The claims have been about evenly split between individuals and businesses, he said.
"The standards for payment under the emergency protocol . . . are quite low," he said. "It can't be fraud and people are having to swear that it's not perjury."
He said the facility is aware of the potential for fraud, and has denied just under 34,000 emergency claims.
Rozen said the GCCF is currently in discussion with several parties, including state attorneys general and governors, to come up with a final protocol for handling claims. The final process may include a procedure for appeals of final claim determinations that has been requested by trial lawyers. He said the GCCF is aware of criticism related to late payments or errors made in processing claims, and admits that mistakes have been made along the way.
"We're doing the best we can and we're doing everything we can to make the process more speedy and as fair as we possibly can for everybody," he said.
During a question and answer session, he heard complaints from some attorneys in the audience who said they've had trouble getting claims paid for clients, many of them poor.
"If we've made errors, point it out to us," Rozen said. "If you have two claims that look identical and were treated differently, ask us to re-look at it. We will."
Rozen said claimants can file interim claim requests every quarter for three years, or ask for a final claim determination. If the final claim is accepted, the claimant must sign a release agreeing not to take any legal action against BP or any other potential defendants. The release does not cover claims for personal injury or death, he said.
Rozen said there is no geographic limitation on claims and that no claims have been eliminated because of a lack of proximity.
"Anybody can make a claim. Anybody," he said. "A seafood restaurant in Idaho."
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