The Prestige Study…Why Feinberg Should Drop the “No Sue” Clause for Final Payments

Reconsider what?

Is Feinberg reconsidering the no-sue clause?

Perhaps so, and maybe because of new information such as this:

In the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, a new study reveals the longer term health effects for cleanup workers exposed to spilled oil when the tanker Prestige sank off the coast of Spain. What it shows is the risks to human health go far beyond the damage of immediate exposure, and often leads to risk factors for later negative health developments.

The effects were measured two years after the spill, and they include:

– Wheezing, chronic cough and other respiratory symptoms.

– Higher levels of chemicals associated with lung damage.

– Higher rates of chromosome changes in white blood cells, changes that in other studies are linked to increased risk of cancer.

There are certainly differences between the Prestige Spill and BP’s catastraphuk: different types of crude oil, water temperatures and in Spain, the oil spilled directly on the surface whereas in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil had to rise through a mile of the Gulf’s waters. That being said, the spill in the Gulf was significantly larger and has the extra added effect of two million gallons of dispersants, chemicals also suspected of causing respiratory symptoms. David Savitz, a co-author of the editorial accompanying the Prestige study comments about the Gulf, “We can’t assume it’s going to be the same here as it was there…but this shows that there is the potential for health effects that go far beyond immediate exposure.”

And that is the concern, both for the health of the 50,000 Gulf Coast cleanup workers and the “no sue” clause in Kenneth Feinberg’s arbitration plans.

The final effects of the oil and Corexit’s toxicity in this particular spill are unknown yet Gulf Coast residents, if the terms of the final payout remain unchanged, will soon have to make a large, uninformed choice.

They can accept the final payout and hope all is well with the health of their family.

They can reject the final payout and take their chances in court.

As the Prestige study shows, the potential health effects may not be known for years to come so it seems both immoral and unfair for people in the Gulf to have to face down the potential for huge medical bills as a result of this Catastraphuk, a turn of events that was not of their making, by a company who promised to make everyone whole again.

And maybe, they may not have to make this choice at all.

It would seem Feinberg is now giving himself some wiggle room, much to the suspected disapproval of British Petroleum. He stated in a recent article: “The question of whether or not a final payment will require a claimant to release one defendant, BP, or all defendants, has not yet been resolved by me.” If Feinberg is indeed reconsidering the rules, this would certainly be a positive development for Gulf Coast residents, not only could BP still potentially be held liable, but so could Transocean Ltd. who owns the Deepwater Horizon rig and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns a 25% stake in the well.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an e-mailed statement, “BP believes that any settlement should be a full and final settlement.”

For the sake of thousands in the Gulf Coast, hopefully Mr. Beaudo is wrong and Feinberg will change his mind.

To close off financial compensation within a year, while the speed of the payments is appreciated, could leave many residents floundering later, long after the money is gone, long after the country has forgotten and long after BP has finally succeeded in washing its hands clean in all that oiled surf washing ashore in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

I would also hope that officials in these four states are attempting to sway Feinberg. If the rules remain in their current form, it is these four states that will end up paying the costs should their citizens’ health begin to fail, not British Petroleum, not Anadarko or Transocean.

You know…the companies responsible for unleashing this monster on all involved in the first place.

Read the articles:

Oil-cleanup workers may face lung trouble

Feinberg Says Spill Victims May Be Able to Sue Some Companies

Have a nice day.

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