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NEW ORLEANS — Convenience store retailers and other businesses located in regions affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are eligible for damage claims from the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement with BP plc — but they may not know it — and a six-month window to file claims or lose out forever has begun.
On Friday, Dec. 5, the Supreme Court upheld the approval of BP's multibillion-dollar settlement with businesses and residents who claim the enormous oil spill cost them money, the Associated Press reported. In an attempt to vacate the settlement, lawyers for BP argued that the class of eligible claimants included those who had not been financially injured by the event, but the justices rejected that argument.
This ruling triggered the start of a six-month period during which affected c-store owners can file a claim, after which they forfeit any part of the settlement.
"All retailers including c-stores that have facilities in the claims area may have a viable claim," Jim Reed, of law firm Grey Reed & McGraw P.C., told CSNews Online. "The facilities need not be located on or even near the coast as long as it is in the approved claims area."
Most business owners believe that for their claim to be successful, they must prove that any decline in revenue was caused solely by the oil spill, without taking into account the influence of the general state of the economy or pre-spill economic factors. This is a myth, according to the law firm, which is representing businesses that seek to make settlement claims.
Instead, settlement criteria is based on location, type of business and financial data instead of an analysis of a business' day-to-day issues.
"The [Dec. 5] ruling means the claims payment process should come up to speed and be able to process and pay claims without fear of the settlement class being overturned," Reed explained.
Many single-store operators and small chains either do not understand the claims process or believe they cannot afford an evaluation of their claim, but Grey Reed & McGraw has developed a three-step process for potential claimants, with fees to be paid on contingency if the claim is successful:
- Confirm the business has locations in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, four Texas counties or certain regions along the Florida coastline. The company headquarters may be located elsewhere.
- Run the monthly and annual profit and loss data for 2007-2011 through a software program designed for the settlement.
- Reconcile the data with tax returns to finalize a claim.
A claim may take weeks to evaluate and file, but retailers who believe they may be eligible should begin the process immediately to ensure the process proceeds smoothly before the six-month deadline is up, the firm advises.
"The settlement claims process is valid and enforceable," assured Reed.