To OWAA Members,
The oil disaster in the Gulf region has affected the economy and will continue to have a devastating impact for many years to come. Tens of thousands of businesses and individuals who rely in part or entirely on the Gulf’s resources and opportunities for their livelihood will suffer economic loss because of this disaster.
After reviewing options and discussing this situation with Bill Powell, legal counsel for OWAA, we determined it would be appropriate to send this letter to OWAA members who will have an adverse economic impact because of this disaster.
Powell did some research and found that several class action lawsuits have been filed already, but none appear to include anyone who makes their living writing or communicating about the Gulf Coast’s outdoor opportunities. But he does say a class action lawsuit might include those individuals at some point in the future.
“If one is filed that purports to be on behalf of people damaged in ways like our members may be damaged, and if it receives certification as a class action, then the rules established for that case will control, as to whether and when and how to file claims or opt out of the class,” explains Powell. “My personal observation is that the two groups that like class actions the best are plaintiffs’ attorneys, who rake off large fees, and the defendants, who are thus relieved of the need to defend numerous claims and suits and ultimately are released by court order from liability for the incident or behavior that caused the claims.”
OWAA members who do experience economic loss due to lost assignments can file a claim directly with BP. The form and instructions are located at:
Claims may be submitted with or without an attorney, and one category of claim is for loss of income.
I vividly remember when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound. For a short time magazines ran stories about the disasters but then wanted nothing to do with the area until the 10 year anniversary of the incident. Since the Gulf disaster is far worse than the Exxon spill in Alaska, the region will likely have significant loss of opportunity for anyone whose livelihood is derived from communicating about fishing, boating, diving or hunting the coast.
Suggestions for filing claims:
If you are a member who has a history of articles about the Gulf region, I suggest you retrieve your income records for the past five to ten years and add up your yearly income derived from stories, photos, videos, etc., about the Gulf region. This will establish your possible future lost income and help if you decide to file a claim individually or as part of a class action lawsuit.
BP may argue that outdoor writers have a new opportunity to write about the disaster. But some region specific magazines may not survive without the income derived from advertising from boat builders, guides, resorts and other businesses in the region who rely on the outdoor opportunities of the region. And most major newspapers, magazines and other media outlets already have a stable of environmental writers. Magazines not affected by the Gulf will not likely choose to run many stories about the oil spill.
I hope this information is useful to our membership, but want to remind everyone that OWAA is not advocating that members file claims. I simply want the membership to understand what is going on and the opportunities for doing so that have been established and might arise pertaining to the economic losses caused by this unprecedented environmental disaster.
John L. Beath, OWAA President
To OWAA Members,