The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that many businesses in the Tampa Bay area are not aware they are included in the scope of the court-supervised BP Oil Spill settlement. http://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/print-edition/2012/10/19/bp-settlement-a-lot-broader-than.html?ana=e_ph
Palm Harbor-based litigator and real estate attorney Spiro Verras explained that “this is not the BP claims facility people may recall from soon after the spill. This is a final settlement being administered by a federal court in New Orleans, and the scope of the settlement is a lot broader than most people realize.”
Verras, who has offices in both Tampa and Palm Harbor, was the first lawyer in the Tampa Bay area to sue BP and the other responsible parties for the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the largest offshore oil spill in US history. In June 2010, Verras filed 23 class action lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa on behalf of his clients from throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Ultimately, over 500 class action suits were filed across the Gulf of Mexico region. “When many similar federal suits are filed, it triggers the intervention of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which decides on one court, and one judge, who will be in charge of all the consolidated cases.”
In July 2010, Verras attended a hearing before the entire panel of federal judges in Boise, Idaho at which he moved the court to consolidate all the cases in Tampa or, in the alternative, to New Orleans, where Verras’ former law firm Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison (formerly known as Jones, Verras & Freiberg) had taken a lead role in the litigation.
“New Orleans was obviously at the epicenter of the catastrophe, and so it was a logical location for consolidation. While we were disappointed not to have the matter sent to Tampa, the Panel’s decision to consolidate in New Orleans was a sound one.”
Verras was pleased that the matter was assigned to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, a widely-respected jurist appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1998. “My New Orleans law partners and I have had many cases in Judge Barbier’s court, and he has a well-deserved reputation for fairness and efficient case management.”
BP and a committee of lawyers representing the victims reached a partial settlement in March that commits London- based BP to pay an estimated $7.8 billion to resolve most economic-damages claims. Judge Barbier has scheduled a Fairness Hearing for final approval of the settlement on November 8, 2012.
Meanwhile, businesses affected by the spill are eligible to file claims for the economic damages they sustained, which generally are calculated based on monthly revenues in the period leading up to and following the 2010 spill.
When he provisionally approved the settlement, Judge Barbier also ruled that attorneys for claimants in the settlement must limit their contingency fees to 25% of the recovery claimant receives rather than the customary 33-40% contingency fee, assuring that more of the money will flow to the victims and less to their lawyers.
Under the terms of the settlement, virtually the entire Tampa Bay area is in Economic Loss Zone D; all of south Tampa, south Pinellas County, and North Pinellas County west of US 19 are in Economic Loss Zone C; and all of the Gulf beaches and barrier islands are in Economic Loss Zone A, the zone subject to the lightest burden of proof. See the zone map here: http://188.8.131.52/zonelocatoreconomic/
“I represent businesses from the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs to the urban setting of downtown Clearwater to right on the water on Treasure Island who were impacted and who are eligible to file claims for their losses,” Verras explained. “As the Tampa Bay Business Journal points out, there are probably many businesses who lost revenue during the crisis caused by the spill who have no idea that they are eligible for recovery under the settlement.”
About Spiro Verras: Spiro Verras’ background includes corporate and business law, real estate and closings, intellectual property, estate planning and probate, and civil litigation of all types, with wide experience in admiralty and environmental law, serious personal injury and commercial litigation. He has championed civil rights, consumer protection and privacy matters, and was the first attorney to sue Microsoft in the In Re Microsoft Consumer Antitrust Litigation. He has also pursued claims against major financial institutions on behalf of defrauded customers, and he has tirelessly championed civil rights suits. Verras was also a co-founder of the groundbreaking Unthink social media project, which sought to empower individuals and provide the most comprehensive privacy and ownership rights ever offered by a social network through its revolutionary legal structure. Throughout his career, Verras has fought as a tireless advocate for his clients, and he brings the same personal passion to his transactional work, taking the time to truly understand his clients’ concerns and giving each client personalized attention and care.
SOURCE: Spiro Verras
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