Gulf oil spill claims abound in South Florida

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More than 10,000 businesses and individuals in South Florida have filed claims or federal lawsuits against BP for the damage done following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20.

Claims have come from all types of South Florida businesses and residents. They include commercial fishermen, marinas, restaurants, hotels, real estate agents, waterfront property owners, lobster trap makers, municipalities, and even Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Key West, according to the Miami Herald.

As of Dec. 2 the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which is processing claims against BP's $20 billion compensation fund, has paid $44.1 million for 2,776 approved claims from 6,455 filed by individuals and businesses in the Florida Keys.

The BP fund also has paid $4.1 million for 462 approved claims in Miami-Dade County and another $2.9 million for 58 approved claims from Broward County, the newspaper reported.

Twenty-six lawsuits filed in the Southern District of Florida have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation, in which common pretrial work is handled by a single judge, in this case U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is based in Louisiana.

Compensation for those cases likely will take at least two years and probably many more. Some find it hard to believe these claims. The spill occurred hundreds of miles away and no oil has reached South Florida's waters, shorelines or beaches.

"It wasn't the reality. It was the perception that hurt us and is still affecting us," Harold Wheeler, executive director of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, told the newspaper. "Many people think we got the oil - and still have it.'"

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