IMPORTANT UPDATE RE: Oil Spill Claims

The final protocol for claims related to the BP oil spill was released today by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Victims will choose one of the two options: 1) accept a final lump sum payment for all present and future damage in exchange for a full and final release surrendering their right to sue or 2) continue receiving quarterly interim payments based upon past damage for the that three months. If the last option is chosen, Feinburg specifically stated, “there is no guarantee that, in the future, a lump sum Final Payment will be as generous as it will be currently.” There will be an non-binding appeals process for those claimants who receive an offer of total compensation in excess of $250,000, but believe it inadequate. All claimants will be able to appeal their GCCF award to the Coast Guard and the Federal Courts. A decision regarding which option to choose should be made on a case by case basis. If you need any assistance regarding which option may be best suited for your personal and/or business claim, please contact Knox Boteler in our office. knox@botelerwolfe.com

GEICO owns geicosucks.com domain!

As has been reported on this blog and in our newsletter, Legally Speaking, GEICO has recently adopted a hard line approach to claim settlement in auto-negligence claims. Recently Digg.com has reported that GEICO owns the domain, geicosucks.com.

In years past when various insurance companies have adopted unfair claim practices, web sites have sprung up describing the unfair claim practices of the particular company. See for example famersinsurancesucks.com 

Obviously, GEICO wants to limit any bad publicity from their unfair claim practices by owning the domain geicosucks.com. We consider this to be a tacit admission that they know their claims practices are unfair!

US Supreme Court to Hear Important Case for Consumers

Class action lawsuits allow large groups of consumers to recover damages in legal matters involving smaller claims or cases. Many times the amount in controversy is too small to warrant an individual lawsuit. Such is the situation for Vincent and Liza Conception who caught AT&T overcharging sales tax on their cell phones. The amount of the overcharge was only $30.00 per phone but AT&T was apparently doing this to all its California customers. A class action lawsuit was brought against AT&T in California for all similarly overcharged customers by the Conceptions. However, in the fine print of the Conception’s contract was a clause that said they would not bring a deceptive trade practices class action against AT&T and had to make any claim via arbitration. Arbitration is an extremely expensive procedure and it is not a forum that lends itself to small claims or cases.

The Federal Court in California ruled the clause to be void and AT&T has appealled to the US Supreme Court which has agreed to hear the case this week. Legal scholars believe this somewhat unknown and low profile case could be the death of consumer class actions in America if the US Supreme Court rules in favor of AT&T. For more information on this important case please see: AT&T Mobility Services vs. Conception.

If it wrong for a company to deceptively take $3,000,000 from one consumer it should be as equally wrong for them to deceptively take $30 from 100,000 consumers. It is our hope the US Supreme Court will agree with this logic, but we fear a favorable ruling for AT&T will open the door for more large corporations to take advantage of their customers.