SOURCE: Nix, Patterson & Roach

April 18, 2011 18:24 ET

BP Offers Bay County $2.6 Million Partial Settlement for Bed Tax Losses Resulting From Oil Spill

Settlement Is the Largest Awarded to a Governmental Entity in Florida; Bay County Tourist Development Council Unanimously Recommends Immediate Approval From the Bay County Board of County Commissioners at Their Tuesday Meeting

PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL--(Marketwire - Apr 18, 2011) - The Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC) considered and unanimously approved the $2.6 million offer from BP to settle its partial claim for bed tax revenue losses associated with the Deep Water Horizon incident that occurred just prior to the 2010 tourist season. Today's vote is a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for Bay County who are scheduled to consider today's TDC action at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2011.

In the midst of recurring losses, the Tourist Development Council considered whether to pursue litigation or a claim. After analyzing its revenue losses, the TDC developed its claim and presented it to BP. Following negotiations, BP offered a settlement which was very close to the TDC's demand. The settlement enables the TDC to pursue other claims in that it only covers tax losses in the summer months of 2010.

"The TDC has been overwhelmed by the cooperation and attention BP has given our community in settling claims for our losses. Our businesses know how to deal with hurricanes, but they've never dealt with long-term effects from an oil spill that resulted in unpredictable tourist reaction," said Dan Rowe, the TDC's director.

"It was most important that we try to settle our claims as quickly and effectively as possible. Otherwise it would require that our businesses carry the burden of lost revenues on their backs, which they were not and are not capable of doing," continued Rowe. "Neither the TDC nor our businesses are able to survive through lengthy litigation that could take many years to resolve. We were concerned that the last significant oil spill litigation in Florida took 12 years."

The TDC's general counsel Doug Sale added, "After reviewing the law with Carl Nelson, I concluded that multidistrict litigation in New Orleans is premature and violates federal law. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires that would be litigants attempt to settle their dispute with the responsible party, in this case BP, before litigation can be commenced. I've advised the TDC to pursue settlement with vigor before considering litigation. From the very beginning our team prepared the TDC's claim with the best experts and in anticipation of litigation, and then presented our claim to BP. Our team was pleased with BP's reaction to our claim analysis. BP cooperated with us, negotiated with us, and was concerned about how we thought our community could best recover. Although we prepared this claim in preparation for litigation, we decided that litigation is a last resort."

Drake Martin and Brady Paddock led the Nix Patterson Roach team in the settlement negotiations which resulted in a settlement offer that nearly matched the TDC's claim demand. Martin noted that "this settlement allows the TDC to pursue its other claims against BP and has laid the groundwork for us to continue to be successful with BP without having to result to litigation."

Yonnie Patronis, a local restaurant owner and TDC member, stated that "the TDC has limited revenue streams. When we lose revenue from low tourism numbers, there aren't other places we can go to market and promote the World's Most Beautiful Beaches. We're fighting a perception of what occurred on other beaches. Our sands remain sugar white and our waters remain clear. Our job is to get that message out, which we can't do if our revenues are lost. This settlement helps us spread the good news."

Marty McDaniel, another TDC member, said, "This settlement comes less than a year after the spill and is the largest that BP has offered to a governmental entity for tax revenue losses in the state of Florida. We're proud of this accomplishment."

The settlement, totaling $2,612,145, was obtained by a legal team led by Nix Patterson and Roach, LLP and includes Bay County law firms Harrison Sale McCloy and Harrison Rivard & Duncan, as well as the Tampa law firm of Fowler White.

The Nix, Patterson & Roach team is also responsible for negotiating the $2.4 million settlement the Walton County TDC reached with BP last week, and a $1.2 million settlement for the City of Panama City Beach.

"We are proud to have reached this settlement on behalf of the businesses and people of Bay County, who unfairly suffered as a result of the Gulf Oil Spill," said Martin. "As we mark the anniversary of this tragic event, it is right that Bay County can now move beyond the events of the past and look forward to greater growth and prosperity."

According to Buddy Wilkes, TDC Chairman, "It was simple: we trusted BP to do what they said they would do if we held up our end and gave them proof of what was lost last summer. We did that, and they have agreed to pay it. Now we need to use that money just as wisely as if it had been collected in installments last year."