Judge Carl Barbier has lifted the stay, informal though it was, on payments for claims for damages that were caused by the Gulf oil spill. In recent months, some business claims have ground to a halt while the U.S. District Judge reviewed BP’s challenge that a certain section of the written agreement for settling private claims was being misinterpreted.
Near the end of 2012, BP was making payments to claimants who worked in industries that have been labeled “variable profit”. Some of these types of industries include professional services, agriculture, and construction. Much of the correspondence between BP and the judge was done through email, and isn’t on court records, leaving many of the claimants who are affected wondering what was happening to their files.
The company’s main argument was that with these types of industries, it would be difficult to determine whether the losses were really a direct result of the spill, or if they were caused by other factors in the economy. They also stated that stricter testing would be needed to make this determination. However, the oil company had already laid out a plan for the way that these types of claims should be settled, so when BP submitted a request that the claims be reconsidered, those that would be affected by it were justifiably outraged. Economic structure is in effect, like a food chain. If one part of the economy is damaged, it can cause a chain reaction that will damage all parts.
Patrick Juneau, who is the claims adjuster appointed by the court, confirmed that he had put a hold on payments going out to those claimants that were affected by this dispute. While he couldn’t say exactly how man claims could potentially be affected by this matter, he has said that he was informed that he should reinstate payment while the judge reconsiders the case.
How can you accurately judge whether a certain industry is affected by an event as catastrophic as the Gulf oil spill? It would seem that an industry such as agriculture would suffer greatly from this, and while it may be a “variable profit” industry, millions of gallons of oil will certainly have a detrimental effect on plant life. While there are people that are most certainly trying to take advantage of this, every industry in the region will probably have some sort of legitimate case. A loss of income to one industry will almost certainly trickle down to those industries that support it.