State, Maritime Law to Determine BP Oil Claims, Says Feinberg

June 28, 2010

Victims of the biggest oil spill in U.S. history should be compensated if their claims would be applicable under state or maritime law, the head of the $20 billion BP spill compensation fund told the Financial Times.

In an interview published in Saturday’s edition of the paper, Kenneth Feinberg said he was still trying to calculate how to evaluate losses caused by interruption of business, lost business and diminished real estate value.

The paper said Feinberg would set a cut-off date for filing emergency claims — probably one or two months after the spill ends.

“I think the best way to look at it is the way (the U.S.) Congress looked at 9/11 cases,” the Financial Times quoted Feinberg as saying.

“Would your claim be applicable under state and, in this case, maritime law? If the state would recognise it, then I will recognise it. If not, I should not,” he told the paper.

An April 20 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig licensed to BP killed 11 workers and has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It has soiled the U.S. Gulf coastline and threatened multibillion dollar tourism and fishing industries.

Feinberg said that at some stage he would offer claimants a lump sum for all future loss in exchange for an agreement that they would no longer sue BP over the spill.

“If they don’t like it, they can reject the lump sum,” and go to court, he said.

“If you think there are going to be birth defects or cancer in the future, then don’t take the cheque, don’t sign the waiver,” he said.

BP says it has paid out $2.35 billion so far in clean-up and compensation costs related to the spill. That does not include the $20 billion oil spill fund BP has agreed to set up, nor the billions of dollars it will have to pay in fines.

Under the Clean Water Act, BP could potentially face penalties of at least $15 billion. Fears over the cost of the clean up bill have sent BP shares to a 14-year low.

(Reporting by Jon Boyle; Editing by Charles Dick)

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