Settlement could mean cash for veterinarians affected by Gulf oil spill
When the BP oil spill hit the Gulf Coast, many businesses saw an economic loss. Tourism dried up and the lack of revenue trickled down to affect everyone.
To make up for that economic downturn, a class-action lawsuit filed against BP is in the process of being settled so business owners who lost money due to the spill can file a claim and recoup lost revenue.
"As counsel for business clients and the son of a hardworking veterinarian, I have seen how a population's decrease in discretionary spending causes a serious ripple effect for surrounding markets," says Anthony Garcia, JD, who is representing claimants in the settlement. Garcia says the settlement includes businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, select coastal counties in Texas and every Florida Gulf Coast county.
Doug Mader, DVM, DABVP, owner of a practice in Marathon, Fla., says he saw a $50,000 decrease in revenue the first month after the spill, and it took five to six months to get back to normal. "It was a ghost town here," Mader says. "Some of our clients are people traveling with their pets but most of them are people who live here. So when they lost their jobs or their hours were cut, they had less money to bring their pets in and we saw a huge decline in visits."
Mader says BP set up claims offices that had lines out the door. He filed three claims and was denied every time—BP said veterinarians weren't affected by the spill. So when Mader heard about the class-action settlement, he signed up and sent in his paperwork.
Garcia says eligible claimants must show a "V" in their finances—a decrease in revenue in 2010 during the spill compared with 2009 and 2011 financial numbers.
The next step in the settlement process will be a fairness hearing, which as of press time was scheduled for Nov. 8. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana will decide if the settlement is "fair, reasonable, and adequate," according to the court-approved settlement website. If the court decides to grant final approval, it will issue a judgment binding BP to the terms for all eligible class members and dismiss claims against BP resolved by the settlement.
Despite this pending process, Garcia says claimants who have submitted claims are already receiving compensation within three to four months. "As with any large project, slow beginnings are natural and efficiencies are expected as administrators and claimants find their footing," Garcia says.
If the court approves the settlement, the deadline to submit claims is April 22, 2014. For more information on the settlement, visit www.deepwaterhorizonsettlements.com.