The Proprietary Benefits of the Deepwater Horizon Settlement

Proprietary benefits refer to property that a person owns. In the Deepwater Horizon disaster, victims of destroyed property were granted financial compensation from the BP oil spill settlement for the destruction of their property as a direct result of the oil rig explosion. Proprietary benefits include land, homes, and marine vessels.

The deep water oil spill affected marine vessels such as ships, yachts, boats, and other water vessels. Those who are granted financial compensation includes individuals who volunteered to help in the oil spill cleanup effort as well as those who are not excluded from other economic benefits spelled out in the Exhibit. Vessel owners must have at least one of the following issues described in the document as “physical damage” in order to qualify:

  • Bent propeller
  • Various dents and scratches on the vessel paint job (stainings included)
  • Damaged engine due to oil contamination
  • Damaged gear used to catch seafood (nets, rakes, traps, etc.)

A vessel’s propeller is what allows the vessel to travel smoothly through the ocean waters. If the propeller is bent, your travel by way of water transportation is impacted—and travel could be fatal. The oil also contaminated marine vessels, since the spill affected ships, yachts, and boats (all of which are on the water’s surface). A vessel that contains oil is subject to blow up, particularly if oil is found within the vessel’s engine. Damaged harvesting equipment (rakes, traps, nets) prevents commercial fishermen from working to provide for themselves and their families. Damaged equipment must be compensated for by the settlement because commercial fishermen and seafood businesses sustain a huge loss if they cannot catch seafood due to damaged equipment.

Physical damages that could occur to the vessel but are not characterized as fit for compensation are:

  • Damages caused by the ship owner or workers
  • Damages caused by someone from an oil spill cleanup organization
  • A natural disaster (“act of God”)
  • Normal aging
  • Wrecked vessel as a direct result of drunkenness
  • Vessel damage due to lightning strikes
  • Vessel that is not fit for water travel
  • Vessel that violates water operation rules

The deep water horizon oil spill also affected the coastal real estate in the Gulf Coast states. The New Orleans oil spill and the oil spill in Mississippi ruined real estate prices for coastal land, as virtually no consumers looked to settle on the oil-contaminated land. The deepwater horizon litigation provides for coastal real estate owners by granting them financial compensation for their losses. There are a few requirements that coastal real estate owners must meet. One necessary requirement states that coastal owners must own land within a certain designated space. Exhibit 11A of the deepwater litigation states that in order for the coastal real estate owner to receive compensation, the land must be designated under “county use” and it must be a tract of land for which the owner paid taxes during the year of 2010 (April 2010-December 2010). The land must also have oil in the plants, crops, and dirt (in the deepwater horizon location) to qualify for financial compensation. In other words, the deepwater litigation makes it hard for any real estate owner or crop raiser to mischievously place oil in his or her soil and claim that “the oil spill in the Gulf is responsible.”

There are four categories of land qualification for the real estate compensation provision:

• A1: The DWH assessment team assesses the land as qualified and the land does not bear the label of a “swamp,” “wetland,” or “marsh”
• A2: The land tract contains some measure of oil and is labeled as “swamp,” “marsh,” or “wetland”
• B1: The assessment team found that no oil was reported on the land tract and it is not deemed a “swamp,” “marsh,” or “wetland”
• B2: No oil was detected and the land appears to be a “marsh,” “swamp,” or “wetland”

Depending on the classification of your land, you can receive the following property tax percentage as compensation:

• A1: 40%
• A2: 45%
• B1: 30%
• B2: 35%

The rationale behind coastal real estate is that the more contaminated the land, the less compensation you will receive. Swamp, marsh, and wetland designations indicate some sort of contamination in the soil already—which is why they contain water and are soggy to touch. Dry land, on the other hand, becomes ruined completely when oil is spilled on it. Dry land owners tend to lose more in oil spills than wetland owners (hence the greater compensation).

The coastal real estate provisions are for the states of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi (certain counties only). If you live in any one of these four states and are a coastal real estate victim of the BP deep horizon oil spill, you need to contact some excellent, qualified BP oil spill lawyers to help you file a BP oil spill lawsuit. You may never be able to reclaim your land, but you can reclaim some financial satisfaction.