Judge Carl Barber of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on Jan. 27 issued an order that British Petroleum (BP) will be held liable for a portion of the damages owed by Transocean stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP will be required to indemnify Transocean against any damages directly created by the pollution itself that are awarded through the litigation pending against it. BP will not be required to pay any punitive damages or civil fines as a result of these suits. The court did not rule on whether BP or Transocean would be held strictly liable, negligent or grossly negligent for the equipment failure and subsequent oil spill that created the pollution. Transocean is the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that was contracted by BP, which subsequently caused the oil spill. This ruling is separate from a ruling issued by Barber in August, which permits punitive damages against BP, but that ruling pertained to claims brought against BP directly.
Last summer Barber dismissed consolidated racketeering claims against BP in connection with the spill brought under the US Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO). In February of last year, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood asked the district court to order the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) to fulfill its legal obligations to aid victims of the spill and to remedy inadequate claims mechanisms.
Former Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed a lawsuit in August 2010 against BP for damages to the state’s coast and economy, claiming that the oil giant has failed in its efforts to accept responsibility for the oil spill. In July 2010 a class action lawsuit was filed against the company in a Louisiana state court alleging that its negligent actions led to the spill and that BP was further negligent in its oversight of the cleanup effort, resulting in volunteers falling ill due to inadequate protective equipment. One month prior, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DoJ would review whether any criminal or civil laws were violated by BP.
From Jurist, Jan. 27. Used with permission.
See our last post on the politics of oil spills.
BP oil spill trial postponed
Judge Carl Barbier of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana postponed the trial over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Feb. 27, hours before it was set to begin, in order to give BP more time to reach a settlement agreement. Barbier adjourned the start of this multi-billion dollar trial after a conference call between the parties a week earlier, in hopes that talks between the parties could produce a settlement. BP could be liable for up to $52 billion in what was the largest accidental oil spill in history, damaging marine life and harming the tourism industry. BP denies gross negligence and urges the court to hold both Transocean [corporate website] and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. jointly liable for their respective roles as owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig and pourer of the concrete that lined the oil well which was destroyed, causing the oil spill. Both BP and Transocean are defendants in the case. If a settlement is not reached, the trial could span the next two years. (Jurist, Feb. 27)
Gulf of Mexico coral damaged in BP oil spill
From AFP, March 28:
Gulf waters closed to shrimpers amid wave of deformities
Another disturbing report from the blog of New Orleans environmental attorney Stuart Smith, April 23: