The Oil Spill feeding frenzy escalates

The SE Texas Record Jan. 17, 2012, 3:49am

The damage to the Gulf Coast ecosystem that was hyped and fretted over after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion is turning out to be less significant in the overall scheme of things related to the disaster.

The real ugliness that has floated into view is the frantic maneuvering by every greedy gut on the Gulf seeking to secure a portion of the spoils from the Spill.

We saw it coming, because we've seen it before. It happens after every disaster, natural or man-made: Genuine victims file legitimate claims and con artists contrive to cash in on the calamity.

Some plaintiffs attorneys help genuine victims file legitimate claims and obtain proper compensation. Others throw in with the rascals.

Plaintiffs attorneys deserve to be fairly remunerated for services rendered, but we have a problem with trial lawyers trying to game the system – and with judges who accommodate the latter.

A case in point: the decision by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to impose a 6-percent levy on the $14 billion in future settlements to be paid out by British Petroleum's Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF).

The 6-percent hold-back will establish a reserve fund to compensate the attorneys who comprise a plaintiffs steering committee (PSC) preparing for a fault allocation trial starting next month. In fact, the committee petitioned to have the fund set up.

Never mind that the GCCF is an extrajudicial forum and that the PSC has no role in it.

"The PSC has strongly advocated on behalf of persons submitting claims to the GCCF, continuing to apply public and private pressure to improve the GCCF claims handling operations," wrote Judge Barbier in defense of his decision to set up the fund.

Thanks to the judge, a onetime president of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, members of the plaintiffs steering committee can expect to reap as much as $850 million on the remaining payouts from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

Now that's what we call cleaning up!

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