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Aug 17, 2010 8:21 PM by Chris Welty

Hood: No Decision Yet on Whether Miss. Will Sue BP

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said
Tuesday he hasn't decided yet whether to file a state lawsuit
against BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hood said he's taking
time to evaluate possible claims for damages created by the spill
or by chemicals used to break up the oil. He said determining the
environmental impact on fish, for example, could take months or
longer.
"We're in no hurry to file any litigation," Hood said.
Alabama's attorney general sued BP last week.
Mississippi's Republican Gov. Haley Barbour last month urged
Hood, a Democrat, not to file any "premature" lawsuits against
the company. Barbour said after Alaska sued over the Exxon Valdez
spill, that state had trouble receiving help from the oil company.
Hood said Tuesday that BP is not acting on most oil-spill claims
filed by people and private businesses in Mississippi. He said BP's
own statistics from last Thursday showed that 6,050 of 9,600 of the
"actionable" Mississippi claims were still being evaluated.
That's 63 percent.
BP spokeswoman Margaret Laney said in statement that BP is
committed to paying people and businesses for their losses.
"We very quickly set up a claims process and continued to
enhance it to receive and process claims," she said.
BP said it will stop accepting new claims after Wednesday.
Government-appointed administrator Kenneth Feinberg will take over
the process starting Aug. 23.
BP said Tuesday it has received 24,493 claims in Mississippi and
has paid almost $29.5 million.
Hood said he believes BP is making multiple payments on some
claims to increase its numbers, and that the company is delaying
decisions in Mississippi so it can say it hasn't been denying
claims.
"They're just putting this off as part of their PR campaign,"
Hood said in the AP interview. "It's part of their strategy to
preserve their brand."
Hood said that based on BP's statistics from last Thursday, the
company had paid 363 of the 1,062 claims from rental property
owners, 53 of the 213 claims from restaurant owners and 30 of 695
claims for boats.
In a July 29 news release, Barbour said: "I want those people
and businesses with legitimate claims to recover their rightful
damages; I want the state of Mississippi to recover for its
economic losses and damages to restore any natural resources
damaged by the spill. Premature litigation would benefit a handful
of plaintiff lawyers in the long term but likely harm claimants who
would otherwise be paid in the near term."

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