Robert Murray, a Newtown resident for 33 years, was a marketing and sales executive for a shrimp business in Louisiana when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the biggest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and killing 11 workers. The catastrophe has blown his life apart as well.
“My life has been turned upside down as a result of the BP spill,” Murray said. “I’ve been out of work for almost a year and a half. It’s been very stressful.”
The effects of the spill have been far-reaching. More than two years later, Connecticut residents and attorneys are still involved in what is one of the largest legal battles ever.
The Deepwater Horizon settlement in March dictated that all businesses and individuals who lost income were entitled to collect for economic and physical losses. Eight billion dollars has been set aside for claims. But the case is ongoing, and there is no cap on what BP may have to pay out. The settlement didn’t include federal or local governments and not all the claimants involved in the March settlement have received payments.
Murray said he has filed more than 670 documents to receive compensation, but hasn’t received anything since the settlement was reached. Business and individuals are eligible to receive up to two and half times their losses and those involved in the shrimp industry are entitled to up to eight times their losses. So far Murray said he’s received less than 10 percent of what the settlement says he’s entitled to.
Agostinho Ribeiro, an attorney based in Danbury, is encouraging any businesses or individuals that may be entitled to payments to file their claims, even if they’re far away, in Connecticut, for instance.
“It’s a historic settlement, but it’s complicated,” Ribeiro said. “The settlement was over 1,300 pages.”
Murray hired Ribeiro to represent him, but he’s not the only one.
St. Pete Beach, Fla. is the first municipality to file a claim against BP, in what many speculate will turn into another class action lawsuit for city governments.
Attorney Ronnie Penton, who was the lead litigator in the BP class action, was hired to represent St. Pete Beach and chose as co-counsel Ribeiro, of Ventura, Ribeiro & Smith. Ribeiro has been named one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Connecticut” for the past two years and is most known for his pro bono work representing victims of 9/11 attacks.
Ribeiro said he expects more cities affected by the oil spill to come forward in the coming weeks.
“St. Pete Beach didn’t have oil on its shores but it suffered because of the stigma,” Ribeiro said. “Like many other coast cities, they suffered a direct and dramatic economic impact from the oil spill, including loss of hotel occupancy, taxes, parking revenues, utility revenues and many secondary and tertiary benefits that come from tourism outside of the direct benefit of taxes.”
“It’s an incredible opportunity to assist in protecting the rights of municipalities or even individuals that still need legal counsel,” he said.
Ribeiro said businesses looking for compensation have until Oct. 1 to file claims and that he expects the municipality settlement to be reached within two years.
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