[JURIST] The administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) [official website] announced Monday that the GCCF is in service and will begin processing claims [press release] from the $20 billion fund established by British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] to aid victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico. The GCCF, an independent facility, was implemented in June to manage claims from the fund after negotiations [JURIST report] between BP and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. BP announced last week that it paid out $368 million in claims [press release] before transferring responsibility to the GCCF. All current claims filed with the BP Claims Process [official website] have been transferred to the GCCF for review, but, in order to receive payments, claimants will be required to file new forms with the GCCF. The GCCF administrator, Kenneth Feinberg [WP profile], appointed earlier this month by the White House to manage claims from the fund, stressed the speed with which the GCCF would begin processing claims:
I want to make sure the people in the Gulf understand we will not let you go out of business or lose your home. The number one priority of the GCCF is to assist the people in the Gulf. Now that the claim centers are open and ready for business, the goal will be to get the emergency six month payment checks out the door, within 48 hours for individuals, after receipt of the claim form and sufficient supporting documentation and no more than seven days for businesses, after receipt of claim form and supporting documentation, and help people on the path to rebuilding their lives.
BP also appointed two trustees to administer the fund, former US district judge for the Southern District of New York John Martin and Washington University Law School dean Kent Syverud [official profile].
Numerous lawsuits are pending against BP in connection with the Deepwater Horizon spill. Earlier this month, Alabama Attorney General Troy King [official website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against BP for damages to the state’s coast and economy, claiming that the oil giant has failed in its efforts to accept responsibility for the oil spill. In July, a class-action lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] was filed against the company in a Louisiana state court alleging that its negligent actions led to the spill and that BP was further negligent in its oversight of the cleanup effort, resulting in volunteers falling ill due to inadequate protective equipment. In June, two lawsuits were filed against BP [JURIST report] alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [18 USC § 1961 et seq.] statute. The lawsuits allege that BP purposefully defrauded the American public in order to increase company profits. Also in June, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the DOJ is reviewing whether any civil or criminal laws were violated [JURIST report] by BP resulting in the oil spill. Holder cited several statutes being examined by government lawyers, including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 [materials].