Sarasota, Fla. — The Sarasota law firm Kirk-Pinkerton, PA recently received a fresh series of eligibility notices from the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center, the first action since October 2013 that the firm has seen in the fight to compensate companies and individuals whose livelihoods were damaged by the 2010 BP oil spill. The notices suggest that the claims process, set back by BP’s attempts to scuttle the class action settlement it agreed to in 2012, may finally be inching along, welcome news to the hundreds of claimants with more than $45 million in damages represented by Kirk-Pinkerton.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion that occurred on April 20, 2010, and the oil spill that followed claimed 11 lives and is considered the largest marine oil spill in the industry’s history. In a June 2010 speech, President Barack Obama called the spill “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.”
But while the immediate disaster was eventually contained, the spill created massive business losses in every state along the Gulf Coast. In Florida, the spill hammered the state’s tourism industry, its fishing fleets, real estate and construction companies and more. The disaster also severely reduced government income from sales, property and tourism taxes, leaving municipalities and counties reeling.
In his ruling in phase one of the federal trial that followed the spill, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier wrote that BP had acted with “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” during the time leading up the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Judge Barbier also found that the conduct of BP employees was “egregious enough that exemplary or punitive damages would be appropriate” and that BP specifically made dangerous decisions “driven by its desire to save costs.”
Kirk-Pinkerton CEO and attorney Bill Robertson and attorney Matt Whyte are leading the firm’s efforts to represent hundreds of companies and individuals who experienced tens of millions of dollars in losses because of the spill. Kirk-Pinkerton represents claimants from the Panhandle to Key West, including both the City of Sarasota and the City of Bradenton Beach, municipalities who must pursue their claims through a process separate from the claims center’s. Because of BP’s intransigence, those victimized by the spill may still file claims; Kirk-Pinkerton is actively reviewing new claims as it continues to fight for its existing clients, and encourages those who believe they lost income from the spill to come forward.
While the new entitlement notices being delivered to Kirk-Pinkerton indicate that the claims center is once again processing claims, BP is still fighting its civil settlement, and has launched an aggressive P.R. campaign to suggest that many claims it is receiving through the process the company itself agreed to are fraudulent.
“It’s outrageous that BP is trying to wiggle out of a settlement it agreed to in court,” says Robertson. “In my 30 years of practice, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a company fighting its own settlement. BP has had its day in court, and the court found its behavior to be both reckless and negligent. Our clients are still missing millions of dollars in income from 2010 and they deserve to be compensated.”
“BP has spent a lot of time and money over the past four years trying to convince the public that the claims process is made up of nothing but cheats, liars and scoundrels who are just trying to cash in on BP’s misfortune,” Whyte says. “Judge Barbier’s findings and conclusions should be all the evidence that people need to see that it is BP that was motivated by profit, not the thousands of individuals and businesses who were harmed by BP’s reckless conduct.”
BP, meanwhile, has continued to prosper in the years since the spill. After earning $13.4 billion in profits in 2013, the company announced this July that second quarter profits rose 65 percent, to $3.4 billion.
“That’s great new for BP’s shareholders,” Whyte says, “but what about its victims?”
About Kirk-Pinkerton PA
One of Sarasota’s oldest law firms, Kirk-Pinkerton PA was founded in Sarasota as Williford & Kirk in 1926 and represented both John Ringling and his family in the ensuing decades, focusing on real estate acquisition and land development. Ever since its founding, the firm has played a major role in the development of the Sarasota area and has helped shape the future of the region. Today, the firm is home to 15 attorneys who practice in a wide range of fields. Kirk-Pinkerton’s office is located at 240 S. Pineapple Ave., Sixth Floor, Sarasota. For more information, call 941-364-2400 or visit kirkpinkerton.com.