On September 4, 2014, Judge Carl J. Barbier of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that BP must accept primary responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill on April 20, 2010. Judge Barbier apportioned the blame for the spill between BP PLC, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Energy Service as follows:
- BP was assigned 67 percent of the responsibility for the oil spill.
- The judge held Transocean 30 percent accountable.
- Halliburton escaped significant responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon accident and was apportioned 3 percent of the blame.
BP was singled out for comment by the judge, who stated that the oil company demonstrated a “conscious disregard” for safety requirements during the Deepwater Horizon operation and made “profit-driven decisions” that put workers at risk. For many of those affected by the explosion and spill, working with an experienced offshore injury lawyer can provide the support and legal guidance necessary to reach a fair settlement and to achieve some small measure of closure on this tragic event. Fines Could Exceed $17 Billion According to legal experts familiar with the case, BP could be liable for up to $18 billion in additional fines for its negligence in maintaining a safe workplace for its employees and for the environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and consequent oil spill. BP has already been found criminally liable for manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers and has pled guilty to federal charges that included obstruction of the Congressional investigation into the spill. Judge Barbier’s ruling was met with approval and applause by environmental groups and businesses in the Gulf Coast area. Allegations of Gross Negligence BP has responded to the recent ruling by indicating the company’s intent to file an appeal. Throughout the numerous court proceedings associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident, BP has consistently maintained that it was not “grossly negligent” in maintaining safety on the oil rig. Instead, company representatives have argued for a lower level of responsibility associated with mere negligence. Judge Barbier and claims administrator Patrick Juneau have also been targeted by BP on charges that they are biased against the oil corporation; BP filed a motion on September 2, 2014, to have Juneau removed from his position due to what the firm calls “partisan” bias and adversarial conflicts of interest in the performance of Juneau’s claims administration duties. Mounting Financial Penalties Apart from the nearly $18 billion in fines assessed by Judge Barbier, BP still faces a number of lawsuits from businesses, individuals and families negatively affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. BP is reported to have set aside $43 billion to cover the costs of all fines, penalties and clean-up expenses associated with the accident and has paid over $28 billion to date to mitigate environmental damage and to settle claims. The company is also facing future penalties for violations of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990; these could add up to more than $10 billion in additional costs assessed to BP for the Deepwater Horizon incident. Many businesses continue to feel the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Working with an oil rig accident attorney can help smaller companies obtain the compensation necessary to maintain their business interests and operations in the Gulf Coast region. Families of those lost or injured in the accident may also benefit from the recent ruling of negligence against BP. Consulting a knowledgeable Jones Act lawyer can offer expert guidance in pursuing compensation claims and in holding negligent oil companies accountable for their failures in protecting workers against catastrophic accidents on the job. This can provide greater financial incentives for improvements in safety systems and procedures to prevent similar workplace disasters in the future.