BP has for years attempted to place blame for the Deepwater Horizon Disaster onto others, while at the same time demonizing the good people of the Gulf of Mexico.
In early September 2014, Federal District Court Judge Carl Barbier finally let the hammer drop on BP, determining that the company’s behavior amounted to gross negligence. In fact, Judge Barbier described BP’s operation on the rig as “totally unsafe” and “on the ragged edge,” saying BP failed to “exercise even slight care” and that the company’s reckless actions which resulted in the blowout and explosion were “motivated by profit.” It was the strongest judicial rebuke to-date for a company that consistently refuses to take responsibility.
Money Talks, Bulls*&^ Walks
Judge Barbier’s ruling comes at a time when BP continues its attempts to renege on a 2012 Settlement Agreement the company reached with Gulf area business owners who experienced an economic loss as a result of the spill. While I am not going to regurgitate BP’s innumerable self-serving and frivolous arguments (read all about the company’s legal machinations here and here), I do want to encourage every-single-business-owner (yes, all of you) in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Gulf Coast counties of Florida to contact an attorney who can provide counsel on whether you experienced an economic loss as a result of the BP spill.
At the current levels of participation, I predict 60% of eligible Gulf Coast businesses and individuals will not file.
Don’t be a victim of BP’s dishonest public relations campaign. Do not leave your money on the table. BP will be happy to take it if you do.
Do The Right Thing
I suggest that it is your civic duty to investigate your eligibility. Our region was decimated by BP’s spill. The community at-large will be served if we can recoup our collective spending power lost since the disaster. Society demands that wrongdoers be punished, and only you can make BP take its medicine. In fact, BP’s own expert, Professor John Coffee of Columbia Law School, said the following in a court filing supporting BP’s bid for judicial approval of the Settlement in the Fall of 2012:
“This is not ordinary litigation, but rather a negotiated resolution of a broad program of social remediation and rehabilitation. The object is not simply the compensation of plaintiffs, but the economic and social rehabilitation of the Gulf Coast areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.” – John C. Coffee, Jr., Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, BP / Class Counsel Joint Expert
This is a “broad program of social remediation and rehabilitation.” Don’t remain on the sideline.
That said, determining loss as a result of the spill is not as easy as you may think and it is not a job for the layperson. Don’t just assume you were not affected because you don’t run a bait shop on Panama City Beach. In fact, some of the areas hardest hit by the economic fallout suffered little if any physical oiling.
Quid Pro Quo
BP is going to take its pound of flesh from each and every business in the Gulf. Even if you never file a claim, at the termination of this program, you be be releasing BP from all past and future losses associated with the Deepwater Horizon. That’s right, even non-participants in the claims program will waive their rights. Your waiver is of great value to BP. Should the oil (most of which was never recovered) reappear with the next hurricane, there will be no recourse for your business. Should the toxic dispersant chemicals lead to the destruction of the Gulf ecosystem in a decade or two, you’ll be out of luck. Better to get your insurance now.
Don’t let BP take something from you (a release and waiver) for nothing in exchange. If you were harmed and you qualify, you should be compensated, whether it’s $10 or $10 million. Quid pro quo.
Impacts Far Reaching
If you own a construction company in Montgomery, Alabama, 130 miles inland, you may have been impacted. If you own a farm in Tupolo, Mississippi, 180 miles inland, you may have been impacted. Or, if you own a car dealership in Tallahassee, Florida, 25 miles inland, you may have been impacted.
Simply put, thanks to BP’s gross negligence, commerce and trade throughout the Gulf region ground to a halt in the Spring and Summer of 2010. If you didn’t lose your job, you certainly lost confidence. And when you lose confidence, you tighten purse strings. You and millions of others like you. End of story.
The fact is, most businesses in Gulf Coast states were negatively affected, many dramatically. While the obvious candidates for compensation include tourism-centric businesses located directly on the coast, the map agreed upon by the parties (compensable zones in yellow, purple, red and gray) recognizes the connectivity of Gulf area businesses, both geographically and B-to-B.
What happens on the coast subsequently affects individuals and businesses far inland. Support services for tourism and beach commerce naturally are not located along pricey Gulf Coast real estate. Industries that serve those beach communities (construction, professionals, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, etc), and the industries that serve those industries, are based dozens or even hundreds of miles inland.
Were such companies not also victims of BP’s “reckless” actions that were “motivated by profit?” Of course they were. And if you own or work at any such company, you are foolish not to explore eligibility for compensation. Of course, BP is hoping you do not. The company is counting on its formidable media budget and spin masters like BP spokesperson Geoff Morrell (formerly with the Department of Defense) to convince you that filing a claim for losses associated with the spill just isn’t right. That it is somehow dishonest. That’s malarkey.
Compensation? Yes. Windfall? No.
To be clear, you will not be compensated if you were not affected. There are various formulas in the 1,200 page Settlement Agreement which objectively determine whether you experienced a loss associated with the spill. If, after applying those formulas, it is determined that you were not harmed, then you will not qualify for one penny of compensation.
This program, contrary to BP’s assertions, is not a cash-grab, free-for-all lottery. There are no windfalls. That said, unless you are a trained forensic financial analyst or Certified Public Accountant, you have no business determining on the back of an envelope whether you were or were not affected. Again, BP, who acted without even the “slightest of care,” is counting on you to make that foolish miscalculation.
Contact me today and I’ll provide a no cost, no obligation evaluation to determine if you experienced a loss as a result of the spill. BP is hoping you won’t call. I hope you do. All of you.
Every penny rightfully owing to our region should be collected from BP. If you were affected, it is your civic duty to participate.