BP fund to settle more than 2,000 claims of damage from gulf oil spill

(Jonathan Ernst)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 12, 2011

The administrator of the BP escrow fund will settle more than 2,000 claims of damage from last year's oil spill from hotels, oystermen, condominium owners and others from Louisiana to Florida. Individual payments will range from $10,000 to $30 million, according to a lawyer for the claimants.

The claimants who will get payments include small-time oystermen, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and the upscale Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, said Daniel Becnel, a Louisiana lawyer who helped negotiate the deals. Payton has a summer home near the Gulf Coast, Becnel said. Payments will also go to 900 condominium owners and 50 commercial establishments such as hotels, motels and restaurants.

The group of settled claims is one of the biggest so far, but there are many more. As of Thursday, the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility established by BP had paid 168,634 claims for a total of $3.4 billion. More than 400,000 individuals and 87,412 businesses have asked to be compensated for economic damages resulting from the spill, though a large number of them have been dismissed as having no merit.

Kenneth R. Feinberg, who is the fund administrator, has been trying to convince people that they would be better off taking payments from the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which was established by BP last year, than filing a lawsuit that could take years to resolve.

Feinberg has been paying not only for damages sustained last year but also for those that might be sustained in the future. For example, Becnel said, Feinberg has been paying oystermen for losses last year but is also providing identical sums through 2012 because an oyster crop takes three years to grow.

Becnel said he and other lawyers for the group had submitted extensive supporting materials from economists, environmental scientists and real estate experts.

Becnel said Feinberg was doing "a fabulous job," though Feinberg has been sharply criticized for the amount of money BP is paying him to manage the escrow fund. Feinberg has also been asking claimants to renounce their right to sue BP.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company