U.S District Judge Carl Barbier is expected to grant final approval of the Deepwater Horizon settlements in the near future—a positive next step in resolving tens of thousands of remaining oil spill claims. Among the many oil spill victims who may have eligible claims, some are choosing to opt out of the settlement process. The Houston Chronicle interviewed Motley Rice co-founder and settlement negotiator, Joe Rice, and he discussed the potential risks involved with opting out.
In addition to his concern that the three-year statute of limitations (SOL) is running out for some claimants, Rice has reservations about lawyers representing claimants seeking to opt out, stating that they're taking the risk of potentially getting nothing for their clients.
"I imagine that a lawyer thinks that if one opts out, he will file an appeal and come up with some way to resolve those claims with BP outside the class in some aggregate fashion . . . I don't think BP has any intention of doing so at the current time," he said.
Rice also stated that he believes the list of settlement participants could grow significantly as more businesses understand the settlement. "It is just up to people to exercise that right," Rice added. "BP will pay it if they come. We have built a claimant-friendly, transparent, open-ended claims process for the people on the Gulf Coast."
The economy of the Gulf states is driven in large part by the waters of the Gulf, seafood and tourism. The performance of every business in these states, however, has some link to the Gulf. Once these businesses realize the rights that have been created for them, Rice expects to see a large increase in claim volume.
Any business interest in the class—whether a funeral home in Northern Alabama, a farmer in Atmore, a plumber or a plumbing supply company in Monroe—can have an eligible claim. Whatever the business, these interests have the right to file a claim if not excluded.
While BP has estimated that the cost of the settlement will exceed $7.8 billion, there is no dollar cap on payments.
Learn more about the BP Oil Spill Settlements.