Says BP Refuses to Compensate Behind-the-Scenes Engineering Mastermind
By The Donovan Law Group
TAMPA, Fla. - A lawsuit has been filed in state court in Florida against BP Exploration & Production Inc. and BP America Production Company. The 39-page complaint was filed on March 23, 2012 in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County, Florida by Tampa attorney Brian J. Donovan on behalf of Mr. Joseph F. Kaminski. The complaint alleges breach of implied-in-fact contract and unjust enrichment on the part of the defendants (Case No. 12-3623CI).
Mr. Kaminski, a retired engineer who now devotes his time to his seven children and two grandchildren, is the former Technical Director (Mechanical, Electrical, and Production) for Honeywell Corp., Space Systems Division, Clearwater, FL. From 1990 to 1999, Mr. Kaminski was responsible for the design and system integration of the Honeywell space computer into NASA's EOS (TERRA) satellite, the design of the Honeywell A2100 spacecraft computer product line, the design of the NASA Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous ("NEAR") mission computers, and the design of the NASA FORTE mission computer. Suffice it to say, Mr. Kaminski is not "Joe the Plumber."
On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred aboard the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon. On the morning of April 22, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon sank resulting in a massive oil spill incident. Oil flowed from the Macondo well into the Gulf of Mexico unchecked for nearly five months. The Macondo well tapped into a reservoir more than 13,000 feet below the sea floor, containing approximately 110 million barrels of oil. Millions of barrels of oil were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico and upon adjoining shorelines, causing immense environmental and economic harm to the entire region.
On April 20, 2010, Defendants BP Exploration and BP America were unprepared to respond to a deepwater blowout. A relief well was the only source control option mentioned by name in Defendants' Initial Exploration Plan for the area that included the Macondo well. Other than the lengthy process (at least 100 days) of drilling a relief well, Defendants had no available, tested technique to control or stop a deepwater blowout in the event of a failure of the blowout preventer ("BOP") to properly function.
Defendants' effort to capture oil from the Macondo well with their containment dome design was laughable.
On May 7, 2010, when crews started to maneuver the cofferdam over the leak at the end of the riser, hydrates formed before the cofferdam could be put in place, clogging the opening through which oil was to be funneled. BP Vice President Richard Lynch, who oversaw the cofferdam effort, stated that BP did not anticipate hydrates forming this early. Because hydrocarbons are lighter than water, the containment dome became buoyant as it filled with oil and gas while BP tried to lower it. In the New York Times, Lynch recalled engineers telling him that they had "lost the cofferdam," which, after filling with highly flammable material, had begun floating up toward the ship-covered ocean surface. Engineers were eventually able to gain control of the 98-ton dome and move it to safety on the sea floor. One high-level government official recalled Andy Inglis, BP's Chief Executive of Exploration & Production, saying "if we had tried to make a hydrate collection contraption, we couldn't have done a better job."
On May 11, 2010, approximately twenty-one days after the blowout began, Mr. Kaminski telephoned the BP Help Hotline and offered to assist BP in its efforts to control the source of the oil spill resulting from the blowout. The BP Help Hotline technical support team representative was so impressed with Mr. Kaminski's solutions that he requested Mr. Kaminski to submit his ideas in writing to the Horizon Support Team.
On May 13, 2010, during a conference call with BP representatives organized by Ms. Elizabeth Hittos, Legislative Counsel for U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Mr. Kaminski again explained his ideas and answered questions from BP representatives. Ms. Hittos was asked questions by BP representatives on the line and conveyed the questions to Mr. Kaminski who provided detailed and specific answers to the questions being asked by the BP representatives.
On May 14, 2010, Mr. Kaminski received an email from Ms. Hittos wherein she requests Mr. Kaminski's further assistance. In her email, Ms. Hittos states, "Joseph, I'd like to forward you a slide show of BP's plan. Take a look and specifically tell me where they are going wrong. I would like to point out their inherent mistakes in our next conference call. Thanks."
From approximately May 11, 2010 through July, 2010, Mr. Kaminski, at the request of Defendants, provided his engineering ideas, designs, and services to Defendants both directly and indirectly via the office of Congressman Bilirakis. During this period, Mr. Kaminski conceived, invented, and designed the novel, unique, and concrete insertion pipe idea and the novel, unique, and concrete "Top Hat" with thermal lifting action idea. Using the detailed LMRP/BOP diagrams sent to him, Mr. Kaminski also: (a) devised a stint pipe, later called the "Riser Spool" by BP; and (b) provided plans to Defendants for the purpose of installing two (2) pins (one long & one short) in the riser spool to allow it to be mated to the old riser pipe adapter plate. The ROVs guided the first pin (the long pin) to a hole on the plate, then rotated the pipe on that pin to align the second pin as it is lowered. Mr. Kaminski's two-pin design for riser spool flange alignment allowed for the error-free and expedient installation of a BOP on top.
On July 1, 2010, Mr. Kaminski received a "Thank you" email from Congressman Bilirakis. This email, which isn't even suitable for framing, states, "Dear Joseph: Thank you for sharing your creative solution in the hopes of plugging the leak to the continuous flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. . . . I appreciate you sharing your ideas on how to quickly and safely resolve the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I will also share your ideas and suggestions with my House colleagues. I am certain they will benefit from your views."
According to Donovan, contemporaneous notes and email exchanges clearly show that Mr. Kaminski deserves a great deal of credit for controlling and eventually capping the Macondo well blowout. Moreover, Mr. Kaminski saved Defendants billions of dollars in damages and fines under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Clean Water Act.
Mr. Kaminski seeks economic and compensatory damages, in amounts to be determined at trial, and punitive damages.
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