The Law

BP Oil Spill Workers Can Still Pursue Claim After Late Filing

Two workers who helped clean up the BP oil spill in 2010 will still be able to pursue legal action despite a filing snafu.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 2 min read

On April 20, 2010, the worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

A BP Exploration & Production oil rig named the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and gushing oil from the ocean floor.

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BP worked diligently to mend the error of its ways, deploying cleanup crews to scour the coast of the oil left behind. A number of these BP workers, however, filed a class action suit against the company, alleging they were made ill by chemical exposure during cleanup.

In January 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier approved the suit, which sought compensation and punitive damages for negligence and liability for personal injury and/or bodily injury, including physical, emotional and mental anguish stemming from the cleanup of the spill.

On April 20, 2010, the worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Fabio Concepcion and Mickey Joseph Thiboudaux were named parties in the class action suit. They agreed to the terms set forth in the 2013 ruling, which reserved the right of the class members to later bring a lawsuit against BP if new injuries or illnesses manifested. But before a class member could exercise this right, they needed to submit a Notice of Intent.

Class members had to give BP 10 days’ notice. Then BP would have 30 days to decide whether or not to pursue mediation. If BP chose not to mediate, class members had six months to file suit.

Concepcion and Thiboudaux filed complaints and received notice of BP’s decision not to mediate on May 9, 2017. This gave both until November 9, 2017 to file suit against BP. Both men filed with the court, and the court clerk made docket entries indicating the complaints needed to be refiled as individual lawsuits instead of one complaint.

However, Concepcion’s and Thiboudaux’s counsel never received this information, instead letting the suits fall to the wayside. BP denied coverage based on a time-bar, but the workers brought the case to appeal.

In court, Judge Barbier reviewed the cases and determined the original agreement stood, despite the legal counsel’s error of not filing the suits on time.

Scorecard: Fabio Concepcion and Mickey Joseph Thiboudaux will both be able to pursue their individual lawsuits against BP.

Takeaway: While there may be parameters in place to prevent employees from suing a company, previous court filings may override current policy. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]