In the two weeks since he was appointed by the court to supervise the BP settlement’s claims process, Lafayette attorney Patrick Juneau has paid 1,096 claimants about $27 million.
“Not a single business day has gone by since March 8, 2012, when payments to claimants have not been made,” Juneau said in a statement released Friday. Juneau was appointed by the federal court to administer the proposed $8 billion settlement that Lafayette attorney Jim Roy and other local attorneys helped negotiate with BP as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 men and sent millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Juneau is to the court settlement what Kenneth Feinberg was to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. The court established a transition process as a bridge between the GCCF and the new claims center that will replace the Feinberg-run facility. The settlement, which is uncapped, is not yet final and is ultimately subject to the approval of the court.
Since the court’s order, almost 5,000 new claims have been filed in the transition process, including more than 1,700 from claimants who never before filed a claim. Almost $20 million of that money went to 619 claimants who hadn’t accepted a final offer from the GCCF before Feb. 26. Under the settlement, those 619 claimants got 60 percent of their final offers while they decide whether to opt into the settlement class.
Claimants receiving 60 percent now will never lose the right to get the 40 percent balance of their final offer. They may even get more if they are a member of the settlement class and receive an offer that is greater than the 40 percent from the court supervised settlement program, according to Juneau. He says the court’s order allows these claimants to receive the greater of the 40 percent balance of the GCCF’s offer or the offer from the court program in exchange for signing a release. If a claimant is not part of the settlement process or opts out of that process, the claimant may receive the 40 percent at that time, after signing a release.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have maintained that those with claims could receive a more lucrative offer by participating in the settlement.
“We want the people of the Gulf to know that they may still file claims,” Juneau says. “When the new program opens, any claim that has not yet been decided will be transferred to the new facility, so there is no need to wait.”