Environmental

Oil Spill MDL Judge: Discharge Was Result Of BP’s Willful Misconduct

NEW ORLEANS — (Mealey's) The federal judge in Louisiana overseeing litigation stemming from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico issued his findings of fact and conclusions of law today with regard to Phase One of the trial and ruled that the discharge of oil from the Macondo well was the result of BP Exploration & Production Inc.’s gross negligence and willful misconduct (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179, E.D. La.; See April 2014, Page 17).

(Findings of fact and conclusions of law available.  Document #08-140912-034X.)

U.S. Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana wrote in the 153-page document that as a result of BP’s conduct, it is subject to enhanced civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.  The judge also found that BP and its co-defendants, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. (HESI) and Transocean Deepwater Drilling Inc., were liable under general maritime law for the blowout, explosion and oil spill and apportioned responsibility to the parties.  Judge Barbier apportioned 67 percent liability to BP, 30 percent to Transocean and 3 percent to HESI.

BP was a lessee of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.  Transocean was the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.  HESI was the contractor that was responsible for cement work connecting the rig to the well.  On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 workers.  Following the explosion, oil was discharged from the well into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months.

Judge Barbier wrote that BP’s conduct was “reckless” and that Transocean and HESI were negligent.  The judge then ruled that although BP’s conduct under general maritime law warrants the imposition of punitive damages, the company cannot be held liable under Fifth Circuit precedent.

Finally, the judge concluded that Transocean was an operator of an Outer Continental Shelf facility under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and is liable to the federal government for removal costs.

Counsel

BP is represented by Don K. Haycraft and R. Keith Jarrett of Liskow & Lewis in New Orleans; Richard C. Godfrey and J. Andrew Langan of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago; Granta Y. Nakayam, Stuart A.C. Drake and Jeffrey Bossert Clark of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C.; Robert C. “Mike” Brock of Covington & Burling in Washington; and Joel M. Gross and Allison Rumsey of Arnold & Porter in Washington.

Steven L. Roberts, Rachel Giesber Clingman, Kent C. Sullivan and Teri L. Donaldson of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan in Houston, Kerry J. Miller of Frilot in New Orleans and Edward G. Preis Jr. and Edward F. Kohnke IV of Preis & Roy in Lafayette, La., represent Transocean.

Bruce W. Bowman, Donald E. Godwin, Floyd R. Hartley Jr., Gavin E. Hill, Jenny L. Martinez, Robert Alan York and Jerry C. von Sternberg of Goodwin Lewis in Dallas are counsel for HESI.

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