Liability Alert: BP’s $20 Billion Claims Fund Gets Sued for “Negligence and Fraud”


Across the pond, the British newspaper, the Telegraph, is singling out a lawsuit by a Florida boat salvage and transport company to illustrate BP’s legal woes, noting that the litigation alleges “negligence and fraud” against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

Pinellas Marine Salvage is “seeking economic, compensatory, and punitive damages.” The new suit illustrates a legal strategy emerging in the wake of a judge ruling that the GCCF is not independent of BP. Lawyers for Pinellas not only assert that the claims process is “not acting sufficiently in the interests of victims,” but that delays are part of a strategy to make desperate people sign away legal rights. The strategy directly attributes actions of the Claims Facility as coming “from BP.”

“This scheme is another device for BP [through the fund] to entice claimants to sign a release and to improperly leverage those releases by intentionally underpaying interim claims,” one of the lawyers says in the Telegraph report. “BP is withholding interim claim payments to increase financial hardship on claimants.”

What’s interesting is that the lawsuit is making relatively big news in the UK. Clearly, any legal filing can be newsworthy, but this case is not exactly head and shoulders above other legal issues – and nowhere near the high-impact issue of dead dolphins washing ashore. It could be a one-off, but my guess is this illustrates that the legal actions against BP – and the potential liability – are more significant in Britain than in the United States.

The Telegraph also uses the story to recite the stats from the GCCF: “The fund has to date received 468,000 claims and paid out around $2.7bn to some 170,000 claimants…”

It will be interesting to see if a trend of lawsuit coverage develops.

Here’s the report, which includes a bit of BP-British government tax news:

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