Miss. Coastal Businesses Still In Fight Over Oil Spill ClaimsBy Evelina Burnett | Published 09 Jul 2013 10:05am |
Millions of dollars are at stake for Mississippi businesses if a federal court agrees to BP’s request to change the ways oil spill claims are processed.
About 12% of the claims submitted to the BP settlement administrator are from Mississippi, where the seafood and tourism industries, among others, were walloped by the spill. BP told an appeals court this week that “"irreparable injustices" are taking place because of the way these claims are being handled. Lawyers representing those affected by the spill disagree. Stephen Teague is with the Mississippi Center for Justice, which has worked with 1500 clients affected by the spill.
"The terms were both favorable and unfavorable to both parties, you know, that's the nature of a settlement agreement. We now think that BP is now backpeddling to try to stall or limit their liablility even though they've previously agreed to it," says Teague.
BP also says the claims administrator has paid thousands of businesses for inflated and fictitious losses. But Ocean Springs lawyer Steve Mullins, who is also representing hundreds of Mississippi claimants, says the process is too stringent for that.
"This argument that there are frivilous claims being paid is looney tunes, they literally go through everything. They want pictures of the business, they want business licenses, the amount of documentation to get a claim paid is equivalent to and sometimes you feel like you're doing an IRS audit," says Mullins.
When oil began gushing into the Gulf three years ago, Mississippi’s $275 million seafood industry took a huge hit. That year, 2010, seafood sales plummeted almost 40 percent, as did the number of industry jobs. But attorney Robert Wiygul says the economic impacts were even more pervasive.
"It's affected so many people and it caused so many people concern about their livlihoods and whether their property was going to be devalued and were their homes going to depreciate, people just stopped spended money in a lot of places, your felt marked affects in businesses that would just surprise you," says Wiygul.
The fifth circuit’s decision is expected to be handed down later this summer. Evelina Burnett, MPB News
Deepwater Horizon Claims Statistics as of July 8, 2013 http://www.deepwaterhorizoneconomicsettlement.com/docs/statistics.pdf
Gulf of Mexico (including Mississippi) Seafood Industry Economic Impacts - 2010 http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/Assets/economics/documents/feus/2010/FEUS_Gulf.pdf
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