1. News

Tampa Bay cities didn't get what they sought in oil spill claims

Jackie Kovila?ritch said St. Petersburg sought to pre?serve claims.
Published Jul. 27, 2015

The city of St. Petersburg demanded nearly $60 million to settle its lawsuit over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and is in line to get $8 million.

Tampa wanted about $60 million and is set to land $27.4 million.

And Clearwater, which actually has a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, sought $20 million and will get roughly the same amount as St. Petersburg.

Disparities among the settlement amounts that Tampa Bay's elected officials have approved in recent days to end their claims against BP and other defendants raise the question: How were they calculated?

Details are scarce because the federal judge presiding over the case, Sally Shushan, has issued a gag order over settlement discussions. Government officials and their attorneys discussed the amounts behind closed doors, emerging only to hold a public vote. They have declined to comment on details until the order is lifted.

But some things we do know.

First, the amounts that the governments demanded in their lawsuits had no bearing on the proposed settlements (which must still be approved by the court and the defendants). The governments used a variety of data and estimates to show how the spill took a toll on their coffers, so their demands varied wildly. The claims relied mainly on revenue lost because of tourists who stayed away and the potential for future damages from oil that still lurks in the gulf.

The court, however, appointed independent panels to calculate proposed settlement awards. Formulas included some of the same categories cited by governments, such as lost sales tax and tourist tax revenue. Other categories included in the plaintiff claims were left out.

There is a legal advantage to taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.

St. Petersburg, for example, aimed to include as many elements as possible to preserve the right to potential future claims, said Jackie Kovilaritch, the chief assistant city attorney.

"I think the amount (the city) sought reflected the broad-sweeping nature of the claim," Kovilaritch said.

That doesn't mean that local governments officials and their lawyers didn't think they could make a case for their claims if they wound up in front of a jury, but that was a gamble few were willing to make. Of the 13 Tampa Bay governments that submitted a claim, only two — St. Pete Beach and neighboring Treasure Island — have voted to reject the proposals.

"Recalling the Exxon Valdez experience of 20-plus years of litigation, I am quite confident that resolution at this time, rather than years out, was the best of outcomes," said Steve Yerrid, the Tampa attorney who handled the city of Tampa's claim.

Many coastal towns and cities such as Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Shores, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach and Redington Shores did not file lawsuits. Officials in many, if not all, of these small residential communities looked at the numbers and didn't find a basis for a claim because they lack a robust tourist economy.

Redington Beach, a town of about 1,500 people, has no hotels at all, said Town Manager Melissa Clarke.

"Our whole town is residential, not commercial, so there was no effect on us," Clarke said.

Contact Tony Marrero at or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.


  1. A view of the Perseid meteor shower in 2013.  Scientists are predicting a rare meteor outburst this week that may be brief but incredibly intense. [Associated Press]
    Hundreds of shooting stars may be visible as Earth plows through the dusty tail of an unidentified comet.
  2. Riley Kinn pauses during an interview in Fostoria, Ohio, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Although Kinn was assured by the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, that he'd have the chance to share his story with an independent review board, he never got the opportunity. After the diocese sent a retired police detective to interview him, who took names of others who could back his account, he learned by letter that the board had found his allegations “unsubstantiated.” Toledo Diocese spokeswoman Kelly Donaghy said the review board doesn’t promise victims they can testify, but examines each case in turn. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) PAUL SANCYA  |  AP
    Review boards appointed by bishops and operating in secrecy have routinely undermined sex abuse claims from victims, shielded accused priests and helped the church avoid payouts.
  3. Zum driver Stacey Patrick, right, waves goodbye to student Saahas Kohli, left, and his mother, Alpa Kohli, obscured behind her son, as he returns home from school in Saratoga, Calif. A handful of ride-hailing companies have surfaced that allow parents to order rides, and in some cases childcare, for children using smartphone apps. The promise is alluring at a time when children are expected to accomplish a dizzying array of extracurricular activities and the boundaries between work and home have blurred. But the companies face hurdles convincing parents that a stranger hired by a ride-hailing company is trustworthy enough to ferry their most precious passengers. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) BEN MARGOT  |  AP
    Ride-hailing companies resolve a dilemma many parents face: how to pick up your kids from school while holding a full-time job.
  4. In this Nov. 4, 2019, file photo former White House adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill arrives for a closed door meeting as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Donald Trump’s exchange with the Ukrainian president was like nothing he had ever seen, David Holmes said in an earlier deposition.
  5. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The woman was running across an intersection against a crosswalk control signal, troopers said.
  6. Integrity Express Logistics, which is expanding its Tampa office, matches freight with trucks to haul it in 48 states and Canada. (DANNY JOHNSTON | Associated Press) DANNY JOHNSTON  |  AP
    The company plans to hire at least 50 more employees and to spend $230,000 on renovations and new office equipment.
  7. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView use ground penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. Courtesy of Lynn Cristina
    Why would I discourage my daughters’ creativity and drive? Aside from being lazy, I was trying to shield them from disappointment.
  9. Phase 1A of the project includes closing W Cass Street from N Willow Avenue to N Boulevard. DIVYA KUMAR  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A stormwater system improvement project has resulted in fewer customers frequenting Cass Street businesses in North Hyde Park.
  10. James Rybicki, 63, faces charges of lewd and lascivious molestation and possession of child pornography. But he could go free after a judge found that Pinellas sheriff’s detectives and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors lied to obtain a search warrant in his case. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A Pinellas sheriff’s detective and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors “made false statements” to obtain a search warrant, a judge has ruled. The evidence was thrown out.