On December 13, 2010, Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) Administrator Kenneth Feinberg announced the GCCF’s next phase, which will include three payment options: interim payments, final payments, and quick final payments. All claimants who elect to accept a final payment or quick final payment are required to sign an extensive release that would bar them from any future recovery for damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, even for future unanticipated losses. The Gulf Coast State Attorneys General have raised concerns regarding the release. Despite efforts by the Attorneys General to work with Mr. Feinberg and BP to improve the claims process, the GCCF is proceeding as planned with implementation of its final protocol and release.
The Gulf Coast Attorneys General strongly urge all claimants to proceed with caution in evaluating whether to accept an offer of final payment or quick final payment from the GCCF or to sign any release. Claimants considering making a quick final payment claim should also evaluate whether their total possible damages exceed the set amount offered for such claims - $5,000.00 for individuals or $25,000.00 for businesses. Claimants should be aware that by accepting either form of final offer and signing the release, they are agreeing that they can never recover any additional money from BP or any other responsible party for damages resulting from the oil spill. For example, even if an unforeseen event such as a future hurricane causes more oil from the spill to be washed onshore, a claimant who has signed the GCCF release will have lost the right to recover for any resulting loss. Similarly, a fisherman who signs the GCCF release will be barred from any additional recovery even if sometime in the future the fish population is depleted or fishing waters are closed due to the oil. The GCCF final payment system requires the claimant to predict all possible damages, current and future, that the claimant will ever incur from the spill.
Due to the speculative nature of estimating a final claim value and the breadth of the GCCF release, the Attorneys General advise claimants against accepting any form of final payment or signing any release without first thoroughly reviewing and understanding the GCCF’s terms. Claimants are strongly encouraged to consult with counsel before signing any final claim paperwork with the GCCF. The Attorneys General are continuing to press Mr. Feinberg and BP to make improvements to the GCCF final protocol and release. However, in the meantime, claimants may file interim claims to recover their currently known damages without having to sign any release. Claimants with questions or concerns should contact their Attorney General’s Office, local bar or legal aid organization or attorney for assistance.
Please see more resources for the official PDF version of this notice signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.