GCCF Administrator Ken Feinberg Open to Change in Proximity Language Re: Oil Spill Claims

September 14, 2010 – Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Ken Feinberg today announced he will seriously consider changing his emergency protocol criteria to now include the payment of claims whether or not a Florida hotelier or restaurateur experienced oil washing up on their shore.  Many in the hospitality industry have had their claims rejected due to the proximity issue, even though 26 Florida counties had been declared a state of emergency by Florida Governor Charlie Crist since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion.  Feinberg made the announcement during his remarks to the FRLA board members today, being held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

“I have suggested that people file their claims, get their proof, get their claim in shape where I can take a look and let’s see how many restaurants and lodging entities in Florida can demonstrate loss. I am keeping the lines open,” said GCCF Administrator Ken Feinberg.  “I understand the need to either deal with this problem now or confront the possibility that hundreds, maybe thousands of large hotels, motels, restaurants in Florida end up filing lawsuits that I don’t think anybody wants,” said Fienberg.

“This is welcomed news for the hospitality industry,” said FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover.  “Whether or not oil from the BP spill washed ashore on Florida beaches, the fact remains that the perception Florida was covered in oil along the coast had a tremendous impact on tourism.  We are incredibly grateful that Ken Feinberg is more open to the proximately issue.  This new consideration will allow thousands of hoteliers and restaurateurs recoup much needed economic recovery dollars to make them whole,” Dover continued.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association recently announced its selection of a consortium of attorneys well known for complex and mass tort litigation and for litigating against the largest corporations in the world.  The three firms, Weitz & Luxenberg, Levin Papantonio, and Cooney & Conway, have pledged to work together on behalf of FRLA to obtain the best recovery available for FRLA members.

“I am pleased that Mr. Feinberg has now recognized that tourism claims should not be limited to businesses directly on the gulf, and that tourism claims under OPA and common law of different states allows tourism claims for economic injury regardless of where a business resides within the state,” said Perry Weitz, founding senior partner of Weitz & Luxenberg.  “We hope that this inclusive approach will help business not only in Florida, but the entire gulf coast.”

“From the moment Ken Feinberg announced the fund’s protocol, we have been fighting to make the claims process more inclusive,” said Mike Papantonio, senior partner at Levin, Papantonio.  “This is big step forward for all BP victims — from all affected states — but much work remains to ensure that every victim is made whole.”

In addition, the Association will be hosting local claims briefings with its team of attorneys beginning in Northwest Florida in the coming weeks.  This will allow for maximum outreach to our local hoteliers and restaurateurs and the ability to walk them through the expedited claims process.  Please check back with www.FRLA.org for a list of scheduled briefings in the region.

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About Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA)
FRLA’s mission is to Protect, Educate and Promote Florida’s hospitality industry – which represents a $57 billion industry, 20% of Florida’s economy, $3.4 billion in sales tax revenue, and more than 900,000 employees, making it Florida’s largest employer.  In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that has devastated areas of Northwest Florida, FRLA has led the charge in representing the industry through marketing, communications, tourism briefings, claims procedures, and paid advertisements to let the world know that Florida is Open for Business.  FRLA is among the most influential trade associations in Florida, counting among its members some of the largest businesses across the state in lodging establishments, restaurants, and thousands of suppliers to the industry.  For more information, go to www.FRLA.org.

About Weitz & Luxenberg
Weitz & Luxenberg, founded in 1986, is one of the leading plaintiffs’ litigation law firms in America. The firm has played leading roles in national and local litigations involving mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer, as well as defective medicines and medical devices such as shoulder pain pumps, Yaz birth control, Zimmer Durom and DePuy Hip implants, Advanced Bionics cochlear implants, Hydroxycut, transvaginal mesh (TVT mesh) and Zicam, and general negligence and medical malpractice, among others. A forerunner in the legal fight against polluters, Weitz & Luxenberg has worked with clients harmed by the TVA coal ash sludge spill in Tennessee, industrial de-greasers PCE/TCE in groundwater and indoor air, the gasoline additive MTBE in water supply wells, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and PERC/PCE in coal float-sink test operations. www.WeitzLux.com

About Levin Papantonio
This law firm probably needs no introduction in our State, as Fred Levin, the firm’s founder, is an icon of the Florida trial bar.  In 1999 Fred was named the Best Civil Litigator in Florida by the National Law Journal, and that same year the University of  Florida Law School was renamed the Fredric G. Levin College of Law.  Fred’s partner, Mike Papantonio, is the Firm’s chief trial attorney, is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and was a 2007 Finalist for the Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. www.LevinLaw.com

About Cooney & Conway
Founded in 1958, is a Chicago based firm with over 20 attorneys and 100 support staff. John Cooney, the firm’s managing partner, is recognized throughout the country for his leadership in plaintiffs’ mass tort litigation.  John also has worked with Ken Feinberg for 20+ years on multiple large litigations. John also was a finalist for the Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.  His partner, Bill Fahey, is the Chief of the Firm’s mass tort department, who has tried to verdict or negotiated settlements in excess of $3 billion. www.CooneyConway.com