March 31, 2015
Esquire magazine calls attorney Kenneth Feinberg “the nation’s leading expert on picking up the pieces.”
Former Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Kenneth Feinberg is set to deliver a public lecture at Tulane Law School April 7: “Unconventional Responses to Unique Catastrophes: Tailoring the Law to Meet the Challenges.”
Photo courtesy of Kenneth Feinberg
That’s because he has overseen most of the highest-profile efforts to compensate victims of major disasters, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Virginia Tech shootings. In 2010-12, the Obama Administration and BP jointly designated Feinberg as administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility to determine payment for the families of oil-rig workers who were killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were devastated by the damage.
Feinberg comes to Tulane Law School April 7 to talk about his extensive experience in assessing who should get paid what and how the law can respond to calamity.
The public is invited to his lecture, “Unconventional Responses to Unique Catastrophes: Tailoring the Law to Meet the Challenges,” which is set for 5 p.m. in Weinmann Hall’s Wendell H. Gauthier Appellate Moot Court Room 110, with a reception to follow in the Marian Mayer Berkett Multipurpose Room.
Even before he became an in-demand compensation fund administrator, Feinberg was a pre-eminent mediator. In the 1980s, he helped negotiate a $180 million settlement in a class-action suit brought by Vietnam veterans injured by exposure to Agent Orange. He also mediated cases involving asbestosis, the Dalkon shield and other mass tort claims.
After Congress created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, the first time federal money was used to directly pay the injured and relatives of mass disaster, Feinberg distributed about $7 billion in lieu of those affected filing lawsuits. He wrote about the experience in the 2005 book What Is Life Worth?
Then and since, he has grappled with such questions as who should be compensated, whether all deaths are worth an equal amount and how to remain fair when given extraordinary leeway in determining individual payments.
Feinberg often works pro bono, as he did as special master of the 9/11 fund.
He also has administered funds involving killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; and accidents at the Indiana State Fair and Reno Air Races. He even helped pinpoint a fair market value for the Zapruder film of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
He currently is reviewing claims stemming from crashes linked to defective GM ignition switches. The automaker hired Feinberg to administer an independent compensation fund, and he has attributed 77 deaths to the problem, dozens more than GM initially acknowledged, and concluded that 141 injured people are due payments.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts and New York University School of Law, Feinberg clerked for Chief Judge Stanley H. Fuld on the New York State Court of Appeals and was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York. He worked as special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1975-80 and as administrative assistant to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1977-79. Feinberg spent 13 years as a partner at Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler before founding his own firm, Feinberg Rozen.