In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, exploded. The rig, owned by British Petroleum (BP), sought to extract oil from the reservoir located in the Gulf of Mexico. After the explosion, oil flowed from opening for nearly three months, unabated.
Clean up efforts were somewhat successful, but the dispersants that were meant to break up and disperse the oil sheen actually made the waters even more toxic. The effects were not localized, either. Scientists reported plumes of un-dissolved oil and an 80-square-mile kill zone below the surface around the well.
Six months following the incident, 4,200 miles of coast were closed to shrimping after shrimpers’ nets were found to contain tar balls. These small (1/2 the size of a fist), black masses of oil were tested and found to be of the same as that flowing from the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Over the next year, the impacted areas grew. The affected Louisiana shoreline grew from 287 miles to 320 miles. Further investigations found oil lodged on the seafloor and killing off sub-aquatic vegetation, necessary for purifying waters and retaining sediments. The studies showed no signs of degradation. By July of 2011 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found nearly 500 miles of gulf coastline affected. This means that almost a third of all US gulf coastline was affected by this one spill. To this day, samples of oil sheen can be found at the spill site.
BP is currently being sued in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. On May 2nd of the court entered into a Preliminary Approval Order as to the economic and property losses and those who should receive medical benefits for persons physically injured by the spill. It’s important to note that these are two separate classes that persons may be members of.
The goal of this preliminary order was to establish an immediate relief effort in the wake of the disaster, rather than waiting for the scheduled January 2013 trial date. The court amended the order a number of times to reflect the plethora of persons eligible for inclusion in the class.
There are three key deadlines that one needs to be mindful of: the objection deadline, the opt-out deadlines, and the claim deadlines. The objection deadline ends the time for any person who suffered economic loss, property damage and/or medical harm to object to any aspect of the settlement in writing. As of September 7th, 2012, the objection deadline passed.
The opt-out deadline ends the period for persons who wish to be excluded from one or both classes to submit a written exclusion request. The court increased the deadline to revoke one’s request for exclusion to December 15th, 2012.
The claim deadline is a bit more tricky. There are a number of programs established to determine who has a claim and what they have a claim for. But for all Seafood Compensation Program claims, one’s claim must be submitted before April 22, 2014 or six months from the Effective Date of the Settlement Agreement, depending upon which is later.