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Appeal Decision Not Likely To Speed Up Wait For MS Businesses

By Evelina Burnett | Published 14 Jan 2014 10:00am | comments

Mississippi businesses with claims from the BP oil spill are one step closer to receiving payments after a federal appeals court upheld the BP settlement agreement. But, their wait isn't over yet.

Payments to many businesses claiming losses from the massive 2010 oil spill have been on hold for months as various appeals wind their way through the court system. The 5th Circuit upheld a lower court’s approval of the settlement agreement last Friday.

Stephanie Showalter-Otts is Director of the National Sea Grant Law Center at The University of Mississippi School of Law. She says that decision won't change the holding pattern that many claimants have found themselves in.

"Because there are other appeals in progress right now with respect to individual claims and how the settlement terms are being interepreted by the claims administrator," she says. "And until that process works out, you may not see a pick up in the claims."

BP spokesman Geoff Morrell in a written statement said the interpretation of the settlement agreement’s causation requirement will be decided by a separate 5th circuit panel.

BP has argued that the claims administrator’s misinterpretation of the agreement has led to inflated or fictitious claims and it says its litigation to rectify this will continue unabated.

Mississippi attorney Robert Wiygul, who represents about a thousand claimants, says Friday’s ruling was an important step but not the final one in the process of re-starting business claims payments.

"It's a necessary but not sufficient condition for things to get moving," Wiygul says. "It's one of the steps that needed to be taken, but there are other things that will have to happen before that system will start moving again." Wiygul is with Waltzer Wiygul & Garside. 

There are about 31,000 Mississippi claims submitted to the settlement program; that’s about 12 percent of the overall number. 

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