[JURIST] Trial began Monday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] between individuals affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder] and British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website]. The other corporations involved [Reuters report] are the rig owner Transocean Ltd. and well cement services provider Halliburton Co. [corporate websites]. The parties bringing suit against BP include the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], states bordering the Gulf Coast and individuals who did not agree to an earlier settlement agreement. The trial is to be conducted in phases [WP report] with the first part focusing on determining what caused the blowout of the well and assign percentage blame on the companies involved. Other issues that are to be resolved are BP’s level of negligence in conjunction with the incident and the amount of oil that escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, both elements are critical to determine BP’s possible penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA) [EPA summary].
Monday’s commencement of the trial against BP and other corporations is the most recent development in a long series of legal battles that have arisen from the Deepwater Horizon Crisis. In January a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana accepted a plea agreement [JURIST report] between BP and the DOJ for the company’s criminal liability in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Earlier in January, Transocean Ltd. pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to “negligently discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico,” in violation of the CWA and will pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon spill. In December a federal judge approved [JURIST report] a final class settlement between BP and those who experienced economic and property loss stemming from the spill. In November BP executives pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to criminal charges stemming from the oil spill. Earlier that month BP agreed to pay [JURIST report] $4.5 billion in penalties for felony misconduct for its role in the spill. A federal judge ordered [JURIST report] BP to share partial liability with Transocean in oil spill claims in January 2012.