BP Exploration & Production Found Grossly Negligent in Macondo Spill

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier issued his phase one findings of fact and conclusions of law Sept. 4 in the New Orleans multidistrict litigation.

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier has found that the oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the Macondo well after the explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig resulted from BP Exploration & Production's gross negligence and willful misconduct under the Clean Water Act.

Barbier issued his phase one findings of fact and conclusions of law Sept. 4 in the New Orleans multidistrict litigation that involves BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, which owned the rig. He found that the comparative fault of the defendants, expressed as a percentage of total liability, is as follows:

  • BP: 67%
  • Transocean: 30%
  • Halliburton: 3%

Barbier also found that "the conduct of BP's employees was egregious enough that exemplary or punitive damages would be appropriate. However, in light of Fifth Circuit precedent, the Court concludes that BP is not liable for punitive damages."

BP issued a news release in response saying it "strongly disagrees with the decision issued today by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and will immediately appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit."

"BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial. The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case. BP believes that an impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court," the statement says. "The Court has not yet ruled on the number of barrels spilled and no penalty has yet been determined. The District Court will hold additional proceedings, which are currently scheduled to begin in January 2015, to consider the application of statutory penalty factors in assessing a per-barrel Clean Water Act penalty. The Clean Water Act requires the District Court to consider a number of factors in determining an appropriate penalty. The statutory maximum penalty is $1,100 per barrel where the court finds simple negligence and $4,300 per barrel where the court finds gross negligence or willful misconduct. During the penalty proceedings, BP will seek to show that its conduct merits a penalty that is less than the applicable maximum after application of the statutory factors. BP is reviewing the decision and will issue a further statement as soon as possible."

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