STATEMENT BY ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD CONCERNING OIL SPILL:
As a veteran of Mississippi’s battle with the insurance companies
Hurricane Katrina, I came to the quick understanding that we need an
open claims process to allow victims to be paid quickly to prevent them
from losing their property and businesses to foreclosure. The lawsuits
and investigations will take time, but victims need money now to stay
afloat. In order to establish the claims process, which began at the
first meeting with the five Coastal Attorneys General and BP general
counsel in my office, I demanded that no claimant to the fund
established by BP be required to sign a waiver of their right to sue
later and that BP waive the $75 million statutory liability cap. BP
agreed to both.
I also demanded the following: (1) that the claims process be
available on BP’s website including a claims manual establishing the
rules; (2) that the Attorneys General from the coastal states appoint
an independent claims monitor to see how fast and fair claims are
being paid; (3) that BP delete all waivers of liability previously
signed by our citizens who have been employed by BP to fight the oil
sick; and (4) that I and my fellow coast Attorneys General have access
to the BP claims database. BP has agreed to these demands and, thus
far, has paid $5.5 million for 4,034 claims in Mississippi.
However, in order for me to fully embrace and encourage victims to use
the BP claims process, I have demanded that, if the state of
Mississippi and BP cannot settle the case, and the state has to file a
suit in state court, then BP must agree not to attempt to remove the
case to federal court. BP and Transocean have revealed their legal
strategy by filing actions before federal judges in Houston, Texas, in
an attempt to drag all claims by individuals, businesses, and the state
and federal governments into a foreign jurisdiction. We want the
claims made by the state of Mississippi to be decided by a Mississippi
state court. We do not want a dime more than we are entitled to, but I
also will not take a dime less.
Although BP has worked with the Coastal Attorneys General, that does
not allow me to forgive them for the short cuts that this corporation
and the other responsible parties took in causing this oil disaster.
I and two of my colleagues recently met with Attorney General Eric
Holder and members of the Department of Justice. We all agreed to work
together to make sure that we review every document, interview every
witness, and leave no stone unturned to hold those individuals and
companies responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
The insurance industry abused the federal court system to delay the
state court suit which my office filed within two weeks of Katrina.
took Mississippi four years to bring the issue before our Mississippi
Supreme Court, where it rightfully belonged. Just this past October,
the Court ruled in our favor nine to zero. It was a hollow victory
indeed because at the time of the decision most everyone already had
settled. I will fight to make sure the oil companies do not abuse the
federal system to delay justice due the people of Mississippi. In
fact, during my testimony before the Congressional House Judiciary
Committee, I proposed legislation which will prohibit companies from
seeking to drag claims filed by the states into federal court. If the
11th Amendment to our United States Constitution has any meaning left,
it is that state claims should be litigated in our state courts.