It was bad enough when submitting a claim to the BP claims process was like buying a lottery ticket – with a few big winners keeping others “in line” hoping they might be next to get paid despite increasingly long odds. Well, that random situation just got worse, and now it’s starting to resemble a bad game show.
The host of the show says, in effect: “Before we go into our final rounds, a surprise twist! Will you take the chance of determining your actual damages and hoping our secret process agrees, or will you take $5,000 and go home? Will you be gutsy enough to take your chances that the toxic soup you cleaned up for months won’t give you cancer?”
Unfortunately, the best name for this twisted game show is already taken: “You Bet Your Life.” We have to settle for what the Gulf Coast Claims Facility calls the “Quick Pay” option. It even sounds like a lottery game. The New York Times describes this latest legal maneuver: “Kenneth Feinberg, who administers the $20 billion fund formed by BP to compensate people for losses from the gulf oil spill, is offering what amounts to a signing bonus to entice more victims to give up their right to sue BP or other companies involved in the disaster.”
In a move that comes awfully close to what Alabama Gov. Bob Riley described as “extortion,” BP claims czar Ken Feinberg just announced that anyone who collected an emergency payment has the right to collect a final additional payment of $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses within 14 days, no questions asked. But remember, as soon as you accept the additional payment, you surrender your right to ever sue any of the companies responsible for the spill.
The announcement leaves victims with the incredibly difficult decision of taking a relatively small amount of money now – the difference between a happy holiday and a bitter one – or hope and pray they get what they’re truly entitled to through the “regular” claims process or by suing BP.
The deal is offered to those who have received emergency payments. No doubt it will roll up the numbers of “final” payments, which is no small consideration given the growing attention all this gamesmanship is drawing from the U.S. Justice Department. Perhaps most troubling is the last-minute aspect of this new payment option – there’s a certain lack of dignity that reminds us that our neighbors are not game show contestants. They are victims of an industrial disaster that could have been prevented, and they deserve better.
Read the NYT article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/us/13fund.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Feinberg%20oil%20spill%20claims&st=cse
Check out additional coverage in the Times-Picayune here: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/12/ken_feinberg_offers_third_opti.html
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