There’s a promise of quick payment, but no easy choice for coastal businessman


Like so many others along the Gulf, Chad Breland has a decision to make.

Breland is an independent distributor selling Bunny brand bread products to restaurants, grocers and convenience store operators in Gulf Shores.

His business, he believes, is directly tied to the tourist economy of the Gulf Coast.

“If this hotel weren’t in front of me, I could see the beach right now,” he said last week while making his rounds.

It took Breland a while, however, to convince officials with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that the beach connection was valid enough to pay his oil spill claim.

Eventually, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office got involved on his behalf, Breland said, and in October he received a check to cover some of his summer losses.

“It was fair for what I filed,” he said.

The payment also means that Breland is among the 168,000 individuals or businesses that could, with little additional effort, snag another payment from Ken Feinberg’s claims organization. Anyone who, like Breland, got at least one emergency payment can now opt for a quick-pay claim of $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses. To take the money, he must walk away from the claims process going forward and agree not to sue BP PLC or any other company involved in the well that spewed oil into the Gulf.

So how does he decide whether to stay in the claims process or take the quick money?

He talks to lawyers or people who know lawyers. He figures that going to court to recover money would take years.

He recalls what he lost during the summer spill. “I’m thinking, oh gosh, if I lost that again this year …” he said, then let the sentence trail off.

He evaluates business along the coast today – up for some of his customers, down for others. For him, generally, it is within about 5 percent of the norm for a December.

He listens to his gut, which tells him that tourists will come back to this part of the Gulf Coast.

And he talks to other people in the business community about the claims process – past and present.

In his estimation, some businesses got “railroaded” and some people collected more than they deserved.

“With anything like this, you get some abuse; we get it after every major hurricane,” he said. “I felt like all along that more local people should be involved in (the claims process). We’ve got Realtors and insurance people who would be good advisers. It’s all people who aren’t from here and have never been here.”

In the end, the $25,000, Breland said last week, isn’t likely to make him whole. But it is worth thinking about.

“If for nothing else, for peace of mind, it is in the ballpark,” he said. “To not have that aggravation over the next 18 months or two years …. it would almost be worth it to take it and say, ‘It’s over and done with.'”

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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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