BP had a mess to clean up after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that left 11 rig workers dead and millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. That oil eventually washed along the shores of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and BP offered lucrative to pay to people that helped the company clean the beaches.
However, because these workers dealt with dangerous, toxic chemicals like crude oil and the highly toxic dispersant Corexit, thousands of workers suffered ailments of varying types, reported USA Today. In response, BP either misled or ordered workers reporting illnesses to visit BP-provided medical professionals that underdiagnosed the workers before sending them back to work.
Alabama fisherman Mark Mead and two friends were on his boat within 20 miles of the explosion on 2010. They drove to the rig and helped pull people out of the water. Later, Mead would work for BP to help clean up polluted shores.
On June 21, 2010, Mead fell into the water in an area densely affected by the spill. Completely covered by crude oil and chemicals, he was taken to a BP facility onshore where he was given paper towels and dish detergent, and then was told to wash off in a men’s bathroom. The BP medical professional briefly examined Mead, and told him to go back to work.
The following year, Mead began suffering severe skin lesions and burning sensations on his skin.
One section of the BP settlement states that chronic dermatitis qualifies for the $60,700 payment entitled to workers who suffered the ailment as a result of working on cleanup efforts. However, BP asserted that Mead’s final diagnosis of chronic dermatitis ran past the deadline and refused to pay.
“BP has gone through great lengths in order to avoid paying compensation to those who are rightfully entitled to it,” commented Brian Barr, a partner with the Levin Papantonio law firm and a member of the plaintiffs steering committee for the BP lawsuit.
BP has created a complicated situation for many workers who experienced similar ailments who sought compensation but were denied by the company. Because BP medical professionals could have purposely underdiagnosed these oil workers, the workers were forced to seek outside medical opinions.
However, many of the workers were low-income, uninsured individuals and didn’t seek outside medical attention because they simply could not afford it.
“I hadn’t worked since 2010, and that had a lot to do with going to see a good doctor, because they want cash money up front and I don’t have no – I’m homeless, I don’t have nowhere to stay and family has been helping me all of this time,” said Donald Dumas of Pensacola, FL. “It’s just been bad.”
BP was noted as wanting to avoid litigation, which is why they created the stipulation of a diagnosis deadline. However, considering these circumstances and outlandish demands of the settlement clause, even more litigation is what BP might get.
BP lied to the workers, telling them that the oil “had degraded and to the point that it was no longer dangerous.” Evidently, that turned out to be false. Thousands of people have reported experiencing near-debilitating ailments. Along with severe skin irritations, workers also complained of harsh coughing fits, likely from chemical inhalation.
BP said the deadline was a safeguard against fraudulent and intentionally trumped up diagnoses made after the settlement’s terms were publicized. Some legal professionals aren’t buying it.
“That’s absurd because that assumes that medical doctors are not going to be ethical and they’re going to provide whatever diagnosis we tell them,” said Florida attorney Heather Lindsey. “Doesn’t everyone know how little doctors like lawyers?”