Fears Over Conflict in Race to get BP Spill Cash

Man handling claims has potential conflict of interest: attorney

"All they hear is "Florida" and "oil" and they're scared," said South Florida fish market owner Ryan Harper.

Harper said there's no doubt about it, business is down at his seafood market and restaurant, a staple in North Miami for a generation.

"I'm getting phone call after phone call, 'Are the oysters OK, are the clams OK, do your fish have oil on them?'" Harper said Tuesday.

Harper said he's going to go after BP for his losses, along with thousands of other South Florida seafood operators, fisherman, and tourist businesses.

But now there may be a potential conflict.

Kenneth Feinberg is the person BP has selected to run the $20 billion fund set up to process the claims. He comes with White House approval.

"He's going around the country telling people don't file in court, you're crazy to file in court, you're crazy to have a lawyer, it's foolish to do so, when BP has the most expensive lawyers in the country, are paying Feinberg and flying him around in their private jets," trial attorney Ervin Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is part of the nationwide group of lawyers evaluating the single location where all the BP litigation should be consolidated. He worries Feinberg may not be objective.

"We've got Mr. Feinberg, who is going to be the expert, the juror, the prosecutor, the lawyer and the judge for everybody and he claims he's gonna be fair, but what judge do you know that's paid by only one side?" said Gonzalez.

"I don't think that's fair that he should represent the fisherman," Harper added.

BP has always stated it was doing its best to answer claims fairly.

If you need to file a claim, call (800) 440-0858 or log on to www.restorethegulf.gov.

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