Business Owners Continue Claims Complaints (VIDEO)


GULF COAST – Administrator Kenneth Feinberg says the new guidelines will give people a better understanding of what documentation is needed, how claims are calculated, and why they make the decisions they do.

But businesses say having it written down doesn’t make them feel any better unless they start getting paid, and quickly.

Channel Three’s Laurie Bernstein is live from Pensacola Beach with one businesses owner’s story.

We are here in front of Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier, the Fishing Supply Shop and The Snack Bar are both run by Mike Pinzone, who also owns Papa’s Pizza on the Quietwater Boardwalk.

This spill has not only ruined the businesses he already runs, but also prevented him from starting a new one, and he still doesn’t know where he stands, even with these final payment guidelines.

“I’m 1471 feet from the gulf, I had oil on my beach deck, in my bathrooms, all my rental equipment.” Mike Pinzone expected business to increase at least 25% from 2009.

Instead, he says he lost $250,000 in 2010 because of the spill. So far, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has only paid 65% of his losses. “I’m sure they are going to come up with excuses not to pay for that.”

“I’ve done my best to come up with a methodology that is as fair as possible.” That was Mr. Feinberg last week, during a hearing with Florida State legislators. But now, the public is seeing those final payment guidlines for the first time.

For all businesses who lost half a million dollars or less in 2010, your final payment will be your losses times two. If you lost more than half a million dollars, there is no set formula, it will be done on a case-by-case basis.

These guidelines were based on the opinions of outside experts brought in by Feinberg, who say the gulf’s economy will be at full strength by the end of 2012. “I went out to try to secure the best credible expertise I could find.”

“Ludicrous for him to say we have data, that you will recover in 2 years, just not reasonable.”

“The tourist industry runs trends, its gonna take 3-5 years.” But Pinzone says he lost so much more. He had investors lined up to build a new restaurant by the pier. But when the oil spill hit, they backed out.

How do you calculate those losses? According to Feinberg, it poses a special challenge, with no definitive way of measuring.

“If you give me someone who will sit down with me, let me show them what I have lost, where I was going, that would make me happy, give me some relief.”

Part of this final claims process includes putting more local people in each claims office. Feinberg says they will be there to explain claims decisions and provide more transparency in the process. But business owners, like Pinzone, say its not going to help if they are still getting paid by Feinberg and BP.

Reporting live from Pensacola Beach, Laurie Bernstein, Channel Three News.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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