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Chamber listens to new oil settlement plan

September 19, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Wilbur Smith Law Firm Attorney Sawyer Smith gave insight to the settlement plan of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill at a luncheon of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce at Shell Point Retirement Community. He educated chamber members and guests of their rights relating to the new compensation agreement.

"The BP oil settlement plan is very unique in that it is a class-action lawsuit that is fully settled, which mean to participate in the class action you don't have any unknowns and uncertainties," said Smith. "The class action lawsuit identifies the members of the class based on zones and regions. They identify counties from east Texas all the way to the Florida Keys."

Excluded industries from oil spill include gas refineries, insurance/finance businesses and gaming industries.

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Wilbur Smith Law Firm Attorney Sawyer Smith weighs the new compensation plan under the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"Basically, every other business whether it is for profit or nonprofit is included in the settlement plan. All you have do is meet levels of causation," he said.

Smith explained the causation effect. It isn't proved by how you were impacted. Claims procedures changed just a few months ago.

"What we actually look for to show causation is a revenue curve depending on how long a business has been around," he said. "If it's been around for longer than 18 months, it is considered an existing business. Depending on where your business is located in the county, we know what percentages have to be. Those on Fort Myers Beach have a very low causation."

Smith calculated what the actual income difference is between certain averages that become a client's compensable number. Since most businesses on the Beach are related to tourism, there is a multiplier of 2 involved. The multiplier is called the risk transfer premium.

"So, if we can show a $50,000 loss or reduction in income in 2010, that's your base of a compensation. With that 2 multiplier, that $50,000 becomes $100,000," he said. "Originally, when the oil spill happened under Federal law, BP had to set up a fund and anyone could apply," said Smith. "What the settlement plan is about is what that oil in the water did to the THOUGHT of coming to Florida. Just thinking of it coming to Florida impacted tourism. The settlement plan looks at tourism and what the effect that BP had on tourism.

The new compensation agreement has to do with an extended cause-and-effect factor. A new claims center was opened in June 2012, when Patrick Juneau took over the processing system.

"Since it was opened up on June 1, we have filed about $13 million worth of claims, and we are starting to see them come back," said Smith. "Every claim we have filed so far has been approved, and they are coming back with numbers that have been a little bit higher than we are projecting them to be. It shows that this system works."

Smith stated there are 171 different methodologies involving claims and 1,200 tabulations for individual claims.

"We have to look at an individual's daily impact," he said. Those interested in seeking claims should choose a law firm with class counsel accreditations.

"I encourage you to do this," said Smith. "If you have gone through the GCCF (Gulf Coast Claims Facility) and were denied, you are absolutely eligible to give it a shot again."



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