Q: How much money was won in the settlement?
A: The Bay County settlement, totaling $2,612,145, was obtained by a legal team led by Nix Patterson and Roach LLP, which 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 two weeks ago and a $1.2 million settlement for the city of Panama City Beach.
Q: How soon will the settlement monies be paid?
A: We received payment on Walton County two days ago and we'll get Bay County's payment today (May 3). To put it in perspective, we had their recovery money in the bank account less than 90 days after beginning negotiations.
Q: Are other BP suits pending in Florida?
A: Yes. We represent two dozen local governments and more than 200 private entities.
Q: What can Boca Grande business operators take away from these multimillion-dollar settlements?
A: In a lot of these areas in the Panhandle it wasn't actual oil on the beaches that perpetuated these losses. It was the perception of oil on these beaches.
Q: How did your forensic accountants determine damages?
A: We hire local accountants. Once we mine that data, we hire some of the best forensic accountants in the country and project your business growth and where it could have been in 2010 but for the oil spill. That way you're building a model of where you should have been in 2010. That's different from what everybody else is doing, which is comparing 2009 and 2010.
Q: Why not simply compare 2010 with 2009 revenues?
A: 2009 was the worst economic year in Florida in three generations. BP would love to use that comparison. But we had a lot of unique economic drivers out here that would have put folks in very different positions. This gives a much clearer picture of the losses sustained by these business.
Q: How will BP's payments be divided?
A: Our attorney's fees on every claim, whether governmental or private, is 20 percent of recovery.
Q: In assessing damages, who bears the cost required of forensic accounting?
A: We got BP to pay all costs of assessing damages.
Q: How tough was BP to work with in reaching this settlement?
A: We first worked with BP to build a model we felt was fair and reasonable for our client on the Panama City Beach loss of sales tax claim. Once we had negotiated and resolved that claim, we had done the work and laid the foundation for a good working relationship. We had earned the credibility.
Q: What were your goals in entering negotiations?
A: 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. 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.
Q: What does it feel like to have won this money for your new neighbors?
A: 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. 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.
Drake Martin at a glance
Occupation: Attorney for Nix Patterson and Roach LLP of Daingerfield, Texas.
Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.
Residence: Grayton Beach. “I moved down here as a result of all this.”
Family: Married 14 years with two boys and a girl.
Education: Juris doctorate from University of Memphis; bachelor's degree from University of Missouri.
Professional: American Bar Association, Tennessee Bar Association and Kentucky Bar Association.