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Oil Spill

Brief Calls BP Compensation Process an ‘Abject Failure,’ Seeks Special Master

Posted Jul 26, 2011 7:23 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Lawyers suing BP over the Gulf oil spill would like a new person to oversee the $20 billion compensation fund: a court-appointed special master.

A supplemental brief (PDF) says the fund has paid only 16 percent of interim claims filed, according to the New York Times, Bloomberg News and the Louisiana Record. The “abject failure” to make payments violates the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which requires an interim claims process after oil spills, the brief contends.

According to the brief, BP employs “coercive tactics” to persuade potential plaintiffs to sign releases in exchange for compensation, and the documents should not be enforced. The brief, filed in federal court in New Orleans, quotes one seafood business owner who signed a release. “It was kind of like a pressure signing,” he said. “If you’re hungry and someone offers you something to eat, it’s hard to say no.”

Fund administrator Ken Feinberg defended the process in an email to Bloomberg. “We have paid interim payments to over 20,000 claimants and there are over 40,000 final payment offers outstanding,” he said. The fund “has so far paid out over $250 million in interim payments and $4.8 billion in total claims.”

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