New ruling on claims for spill damage

By Steven Mufson
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; A4

Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of claims related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, told Florida hotel and restaurant owners he will not impose a "proximity" requirement on those seeking payments for lost business.

Feinberg said he had changed his view on whether to set definite lines about how close to the oil spill a business must be to file a claim for damages. But he insisted that businesses must still document damages.

"If I say 'No, you're not eligible,' what have I done but drive you into the court system?" Feinberg said to a meeting of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in Orlando. "So I want to take a look. I make no promises."

He said he might set aside money for the Florida tourism industry outside the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility; he also urged businesses to seek help from lawyers experienced with large damage cases.

Feinberg said that in less than three weeks, he had received about 50,000 emergency claims and paid out $170 million for 16,000 of them. But he said that about 3,000 of the claims had no documentation and that 12,000 had documentation "so inadequate that no one would pay those claims." He plans to end emergency claim payments by Nov. 23 and turn to reaching final settlements.

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