Larry and Denise Haralson settled with BP in November regarding the losses they suffered because of the Gulf Oil Spill and were waiting for their $14,600 settlement check when the Gulf Coast Claims Facility they had been dealing with was shut down to be replaced by a different center to be supervised by the court, following the announcement that BP would settle all claims for at least $7.8 billion.
While attorneys for the plaintiffs have said that the new facility and system could give plaintiffs more money, and no one will be forced to accept a new settlement agreement, the Haralson’s feel BP broke their contract. The new facility will give current settlement awardees 60 percent of the awards, while the other 40 percent will be judged under new guidelines.
The New York Times reports that even though the new deals have yet to be decided, plaintiffs feel twice victimized, first the oil spill disaster, and now by a new settlement process.
The former dean of Tulane Law School, Edward F. Sherman said that the new settlement criteria will put more money in plaintiff’s hands, and has the additional benefit of long-term health care monitoring for those involved in the oil spill. “I think, by and large, it’s an agreement that’s favorable to a lot more people.”
The Haralson’s however were among the thousands who were represented by the Mississippi Center for Justice for free. The group received money from the original Gulf Coast Claims Facility but the funding runs out soon. Now the plaintiffs are left without free representation to help them navigate the claims process. John Joplin, managing attorney of the group’s Biloxi office asked, “Where is the resource that will allow them to get a free lawyer to help with the process?”