Hood: BP ‘skewing’ claim figures, but in no hurry to sue

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — To date, BP has yet to pay 63 percent of Mississippians claims for losses from the coast oil spill, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

However, Hood said he is in no hurry to sue BP.

“It is unfortunate that, despite all its promises about taking care of our residents on the coast, BP is still holding 6,050 actionable claims,” said Hood.

Hood and his fellow Gulf State’s attorneys general have been working with BP claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg, insisting that BP establish a faster claims process, one that will allow victims to track their claims online.

As of last week, according to BP’s own statistics, 63 percent, or 6,050 of 9,600 total actionable claims, are still being evaluated for payment. A total of $28.6 million has been paid to date, with most of that covering property damage and wage loss.

“BP is trying to get by on the fact that they have paid out $28 million, but the reality is that the majority of claims are just sitting on hold,” said Hood.

Hood said, for example, there are 1,062 claims from rental property owners, but BP has only paid 363. Same with 213 claims from restaurant owners, but only 53 have been paid. Of 695 boat claims, only 30 payments have been made.

“BP is claiming they haven’t yet denied a claim, when the truth is they’ve only closed a couple of dozen cases,” said Hood. “They’re skewing the statistics in their favor. They need to move their priority to getting cases resolved and folks paid so we can evaluate just how much they mean it when they say they’re going to make everything right again. BP has to step up and get this process moving faster for those in Mississippi who are victims of this devastating oil spill.”

Hood said yesterday he hasn’t decided yet whether to file a state lawsuit against BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hood said he’s taking time to evaluate possible claims for damages created by the spill or by chemicals used to break up the oil. He said determining the environmental impact on fish, for example, could take months or longer.

“We’re in no hurry to file any litigation,” Hood said.

Alabama’s attorney general sued BP last week.

Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour last month urged Hood, a Democrat, not to file any “premature” lawsuits against the company. Barbour said after Alaska sued over the Exxon Valdez spill, that state had trouble receiving help from the oil company.

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