Slammed twice by BP, shipper says “I’m not going to give up”


Earlier this summer, I told you about an outrageous breech of promise by BP — how the oil giant was abruptly closing down an internal-claims program that was intended to help business owners who wanted to resolve their claims from the 2010 oil spill, quickly and fairly. This was supposed to be an alternate route for those who didn’t want to go through the burden of dealing with the court system, and — perhaps more importantly — BP claimed that the program was a sign of its good faith, that it intended to make good on all the losses caused by its negligence in the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

I mentioned news reports about one businessman — a Sarasota motel operator named David Arnsby, whose business was devastated when news of the massive oil spill in the Gulf in 2010 caused a significant number of cancellations by tourists. Arnsby, who invested $11 million in the motel only to see it sink into foreclosure, had pinned his hopes for getting back on his feet to BP’s in-house claims program. When BP abruptly shut the plan down with no warning, he was left in the cold, and you had to assume he was not alone.

He wasn’t. This week, the Times-Picayune introduced us to Yiannis Karampelas, a Greek-born seafood exporter now based in Houston, and who had been seeking $18.6 million from BP for his losses:

Karampelas, a native of Chios, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, said the settlement would have offered him, like Arnsby, pennies on the dollar.

In the three years before the spill, Karampelas grew his business to two shrimp trawlers and 12 employees and was on track to export $5 million in whole shrimp and spiny lobster to his home country.

His business evaporated once news of the spill broke in Europe. Within days his vendors had told him to stop sending containers, he said.

“Watching the oil spilling on TV, they didn’t have a second thought,” Karampelas said.

Sales sank from $1.8 million in 2009 to $150,000 in 2010, according to figures provided by Karampelas.

The year of the spill, Karampelas said he received $485,000 in compensation through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility for losses tied to one of his two shrimp trawlers. BP’s internal claims program was his chance at getting back on his feet, he said.

In the end, BP found highly technical grounds for rejecting Karampelas’ claim. In the meantime, business conditions have grown even harder for him, because European inspectors are now giving seafood from the Gulf much closer — and thus, costlier — scrutiny. Meanwhile, he’s now filed a lawsuit against BP to regain his lost money. He told the New Orleans newspaper: “I’m not going to give up.”

BP has insisted that hardly anyone has been affected by its decision to shut down the internal claims program, but like so much that BP has told the residents of the Gulf in recent years, that claim doesn’t hold water. The Times-Picayune spoke with Brent Coon, a Texas attorney, who represents some 10,000 claimants against BP, including some 3,000 who had filed through the internal program. Of those 3,000, only two of Coon’s clients received payments from the BP fund, for a grand total of $50,000. The alleged settlement rate of 1,500-to-1 is appalling.

Meanwhile, as this separate article notes, BP is also heavily backlogged in making payments under its courtroom settlement with Gulf business owners — a process that went off the rails for roughly a year while BP appealed the deal that it had agreed to back in 2012, and has never gotten back on track. All this stalling while BP continues to rake in billions of dollars in profits at the gas pump, every quarter. The company’s treatment of good business people like Yiannis Karampelas and David Arnsby is legally untenable, and morally conscionable. And the fact that we’re still fighting this battle after four years is the biggest outrage of all.

Check out the Times-Picayune piece on the victims of BP’s internal claims shutdown:

Read my June 26 blog post about BP shutting down the claims program:

Here’s more from the Times-Picayune about two business owners trying, and failing, to get their money out of BP in legal procedings:

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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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