Why are the BP victims still complaining 9 years later?

Here we are, 9 years later, and it seems everyone has moved since the BP disaster occurred on April 20, 2010 except the victims that worked the spill, lived with a worker, or washed their clothes, or breathed in the toxic fumes. What is it that continues to be the problem with the victims that everyone else has overlooked? The story goes back to the beginning when most workers did not receive proper safety equipment, and/or the equipment was not effective, and many reported they were instructed to not even wear equipment. They received little to no training, and were not properly informed of the potential health consequence. Wives, children, and other people got 2nd hand exposure to the oil, and people who lived near it breathed it in. The Corexit dispersement turned the polyaromatic hydrocarbons into nano particles and turning them into an aerosol. It was breathed by the victims and changed their DNA. At the time of the spill, little was known about the long-term health effects, but it was suspected. Even by BP's lawyers in the 2014 settlement agreement when they argued they would put settlement money aside for injuries due to latent manifestations, such as cancer, that take years to develop.

After April 20, 2010, physicians began seeing victims as patients with symptoms common-place to other illnesses. But the United States was using the antiquated ICD-9 diagnosis codes at the time of the spill which did not list “chemical illness” as a diagnosis. It was available in the ICD-10 codes but was not adopted by Congress until 2015, even though this version was available before the spill. Therefore, this diagnosis was not available to physicians who then attributed the symptoms and treatments to other illnesses. No medical protocol advisory was ever issued to the medical community from BP, the state, or the federal government about how and when to suspect chemical exposure in their patients. In May 2018, the State of Louisiana senator's noticed this and passed the resolution #16 to highlight this failure and it was mirrored by Jefferson in December 2018.

Occupational medical physicians (OMP) are the specialists in this field. They study approximately 565,000 chemicals in the workplace, compared to approximately 6 required by other doctors. Many of their cases wind up in litigation because there is generally a responsible party involved. This causes them to be burdened with a lot of case research and testimony verses seeing patients.  Other specialties get paid better so consequently, for all these reasons, OCMs are in short supply. Furthermore, in Louisiana, there are requirements which prohibit an OMP from out-of-state to practice here - very few in Louisiana were available to meet the demand when the oil spill disaster occurred.

Chemical illness due to oil exposure causes cascading health effects that may become chronic, especially if not diagnosed and treated properly from the beginning. Additionally, since oil exposure may cause illnesses to manifest years later, this caused victims to not even connect the dots to their oil exposure, disabling them from providing valuable life saving information to their physicians who then misdiagnosis and treat the ailments improperly, consequently leading to their deaths.

Why didn’t the state help?

This oversight by the State of Louisiana could be due to the fact that the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard, serves as the Louisiana Office of Public Health Chief of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Section, and as the consultant for the Environmental Epidemiology Section. He has been there since 2000. It is his opinion that there is no relationship in oil exposure and cancer. His research paper argues that we all have degrees of the propensity of developing cancer and that is what brings it forth. Others do not agree with this argument and point out that oil exposure changes our DNA, which is passed down to the next generation, a likely factor as to why people have a greater propensity to develop cancer. Our disappearing victims also disagree with his disposition.

We Almost Went To War With Syria

"We almost went to war for allegedly dropping chemical weapons on their own people. But a foreign entity can come here to Louisiana and drop one on us, and somehow that’s OK.So don’t say BP say: BRITISH PETROLEUM - a foreign owed company whose headquarters is in England with headquarters in Houston Texas, came to our coast, took unreasonable risks, killed our people, lied about the response, failed to provide information that they had on what caused the incident to happen.

Then their CEO walked the sands of this country, as if he was a colonel from the revolutionary army, from King George’s army. And he walked on the beaches of Mississippi, and as the reporters asked him questions, after 11 of our people died and many out trying to clean up this mess, he said, “I want my life back.” And that bastard got his life back."

- General Russell Honore

Isn’t this what lawsuits are for?

Would you board a plane if an unacceptable number crashed? Safety is not proprietary and the primary motivation for improving safety in each instance is that neither the public (as consumers and as voters) nor the government would allow such enterprises to operate if they suffered many accidents. Even inherently risky businesses can be made much safer, given the right motivations and systems-safety management practices.

The market has a financial mechanism for encouraging risk-managing behaviors: the cost of insurance and the liability of lawsuit settlements. It is critical that compensation to victims be paid in full, and that the process for receiving compensation is swift and efficient. Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a revenue generator enjoyed by both industry and government so the Gulf of Mexico has enjoyed regulatory exemption to not stifle production. In short, the safety risks dramatically increased with the shift to the Gulf ’s deepwaters, but Presidents, members of Congress, and agency leadership had become preoccupied for decades with the enormous revenues generated by such drilling rather than focused on ensuring its safety. With the benefit of hindsight, the only question had become not whether an accident would happen, but when.

After victims across the gulf coast began getting ill with many becoming disabled, not able to make co-payments, no longer able to work, and hustling for medical care. A class action law suit of an estimated 20,000 individuals injured from exposure to crude oil and dispersants was filed in 2012.

Early drafts of the settlement provided as much as $60,700 to workers immediately "diagnosed with specific physical injuries", and blocked automatic payments for ailments that manifested more than the cut-off date of two years (2012) after the spill began. In the final 2014 draft, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said, the wording was altered slightly so it denied automatic compensation for ailments that weren’t formally "diagnosed by a specific series of medical tests" before that cutoff date. This alteration meant that BP would not have to make payouts any time soon to more than 95 percent of the workers hurt while cleaning up the mess. BP, based in London, saved as much as $1.2 billion of the estimated $9.7 billion overall cost of its settlement of most private spill-damage claims, according to court filings. The plaintiff lawyers did not catch the alteration.

Additionally, BP argued that "All individuals with exposure-related injuries diagnosed after the April 2012 cutoff date must sue for compensation under contract provisions reserved for latent injuries, such as cancer, which might develop years after someone comes into contact with the spill." But, those 2012 plaintiffs that filed claims for immediate compensation signed releases not to sue even if they develop cancer from their exposure to the spill years later, because the plaintiffs never considered that their lawyers would overlook an alteration, especially one with devastating consequences.

Then there were the other claimants that had opted out of the settlement, and so far have not been able to present their evidence to a jury and Judge Carl Barbier has allowed these cases to be effectively stayed indefinitely. The settlement agreement agreed to by the plaintiffs' lawyers was so bad, it caused BP's stock to go up, at the expense of the workers’ quality and length of life.

To address victims who were currently experiencing health issues, BP was required to fund a PERIODIC MEDICAL CONSULTATION PROGRAM (PMCP) through the GULF REGION HEALTH OUTREACH PROGRAM they established. The PMCP program entitled “qualified” class members to an initial consultation visit and a subsequent medical consultation visit once every 3 years, for a period of 21 years; However, what it did not provide is medical monitoring and treatment. In short, it only allowed for a basic one-time diagnosis. Additionally, only those who qualified as a class member through the cutoff date had the ability to enroll in this program; i.e. the victims suffering and/or diagnosed after the cutoff date did not qualify. Out of 27,472 PMCP enrollees, less than 3,500 physician appointments were scheduled.

  • Under the Medical Benefits settlement process only 40 claims were paid for serious chronic health condition out of more than 37,000 which filed for compensation. 20% received the minimum compensation of $1300. The remaining 80% of cases are stalled in court waiting to have their claims heard.
  • In that same settlement, the plaintiff’s attorneys made more than $700 million; the Claims Administrator made $155 million, while victims as a group received about $60 million.

Disappearing Victims will be launching a petition drive asking our visitors to digitally sign and send the petition to the US Judiciary Committee requesting requesting them to launch an investigation into why the lawsuits have not moved forward after all these years. Check back to look for it soon!