Official set for surge in BP spill claims as deadline nears
By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The deadline for claims against BP Plc (BP.L: Quote) in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is 11 months away, but the man responsible for paying the claims said on Thursday he is already bracing for a late surge in filings.
Patrick Juneau, a Lafayette, Louisiana attorney experienced in complex litigation, was named by U.S. Judge Carl Barbier last year to oversee BP's settlement with the many individuals and firms who say they were harmed by the spill and its aftermath.
Of 165,877 claims filed as of May 15, his office has found 40,970 eligible for payment, with a total value exceeding $3.2 billion, he said, adding that the pace of filings from the five states covered by the settlement has picked up in recent months.
"It certainly wouldn't surprise me that we'd break the 200,000 mark," Juneau told Reuters. He said his office has been careful about evaluating claims, and expressed frustration at a court challenge by BP to payments for economic losses to businesses harmed by the spill.
The Deepwater Horizon Claims Administration headed by Juneau took over claims processing last spring from Kenneth Feinberg, who had already paid out $6.6 billion under a claims process that pre-dated the settlement in April 2012.
Juneau said that as the deadline for claims of April 22, 2014, approaches, the pace is certain to pick up more. "It's happened in every case I've been involved in, and there's no reason to believe it would be otherwise in this case," he said.
His New Orleans office now employs more than 1,000 people, and still needs more help to handle the load, he said, noting that some claims involve "huge business losses that require a ton of accounting analysis."
Juneau expressed frustration over a complaint BP filed in Barbier's court in January, which alleged frivolous and "fictitious" claims were being paid because the administrator was misapplying a formula for calculating eligibility. He noted that the office has denied about 16 percent of the claims filed. Continued...