HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Matson Inc. is starting to cut checks to businesses hurt by last month's molasses spill disaster.
About a dozen companies have filed claims against the shipping giant after the spill shutdown Keehi Lagoon and much of Honolulu Harbor for nearly two week. One of those companies, Bonefish Honolulu, confirmed that it has resolved its claims.
"We've settled with Matson so we have something to fall back on if the bookings don't come through," said Joaquin DeNolfo.
DeNolfo and his father Louie "The Fish" DeNolfo book fly fishing tours in Keehi Lagoon.
The company said its bookings plummeted after a faulty Matson pipe dumped more than 230,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor, killing more than 20,000 fish and untold sea life in the area.
The DeNolfos said the terms of the settlement were confidential. Matson did not return calls.
The shipping giant has taken responsibility for the spill and has agreed to pay for the clean up costs. But it won't say if it will pay for damages and penalties arising from its role in the spill.
Legal experts say a quick resolution of the civil claims favors Matson.
"They have every reason to settle as many claims they can as quickly as possible, as quietly as possible and as confidentially as possible," said attorney Victor Bakke.
"The longer it drags on, the more the legal fees and Matson will incur more damages through discovery."
The deal comes as the state Health Department and a federal grand jury are investigating Matson's handling of the spill. Bakke says any settlements will have no bearing on any criminal proceedings.
"One of the typical clauses that gets put into these settlements is that neither party admits liability," he said.
Meanwhile, the DeNolfos say their business is starting to pick up, just as the wildlife and water quality at Keehi Lagoon have improved. But they say it still has a long way to go.
"Still singing the blues because the fish are still affected. But you think in time they should come back. It should get better," said Joaquin DeNolfo.