By Shelby Smithey…
The looming opt-out date for people who have submitted a claim under the class settlement against BP was on the forefront of discussion during a forum today at Pensacola State College with BP claims administrator Patrick Juneau.
Already extended once from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, the opt-out deadline is a week before the fairness hearing deciding the finality of the settlement. Individuals and businesses that choose not to opt out of the settlement will be unable to sue BP over any claims.
“I know that there has been discussion about moving the date further back,” Juneau said.
Juneau is a Lafayette, La. lawyer and newly court-appointed administrator of the economic and property damages portion of the Deepwater Horizon Settlement program, which replaced the Kenneth Feinberg-led Gulf Coast Claims Facility beginning June 4.
“Mr. Juneau is not with BP and he’s not part of the plaintiffs’ steering committee,” Florida Rep. Doug Broxson said. “He is the person administering this process. There was a lot of hope that this program would be more successful than the previous systems.”
Juneau said that over 60,000 claims have been submitted under the new system thus far and explained the complexity of the program that decides how much money will be dished out. Juneau also said that he wants people to understand that his role in this case is markedly different than the roles in the past.
“My job is to take this settlement agreement and implement it,” Juneau said. “The details are very specific; this is not a question of subjectivity. We want to achieve uniformity. There has never been a larger or more complex case in the history of the U.S.”
The new system has two court-appointed certified public accounting firms working to ensure accuracy when calculating payments. Juneau said that the first payments were made in July and that his goal is to continue making payments and rapidly.
“In the Pensacola area, 11,214 claims have been filed but only about 10 percent of those claims were eligible,” he said. “Since June 4, there have been payment offers totaling $58 million just for Pensacola area claims, which $44 million of that has been accepted by the plaintiffs.”
Juneau also said that individual and economic loss claims are low because 90 percent of those claims are deficient due to lack of tax and financial documents.
“We can’t process those claims without those documents,” he said. “But if we do send out the eligibility notice and if we receive all the required documents, we can send out a check within a 30-day period.”
Since Oct. 4 there have been a total of 7,144 eligible claims across the Gulf coast, with payment offers totaling $422 million, but Juneau said that there were still many people and businesses in the Gulf coast that are most likely eligible for compensation.
“There are still thousands of legitimate claims that haven’t been filed,” he said.