[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Wednesday that BP [corporate website] was grossly negligent and bears a majority of the blame for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster [JURIST backgrounder]. In his 153-page decision, Judge Carl Barbier determined that 67 percent of the blame for the disaster rests with BP and that the company is “subject to enhanced civil penalties under the Clean Water Act … as the discharge of oil was the result of BP’s gross negligence and BP’s willful misconduct.” According to the BBC, the ruling has the potential [BBC report] of quadrupling BP’s liability for civil damages up to $18 billion. In addition to BP, Barbier found that drilling rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton [corporate websites] were both negligently responsible, shouldering 30 percent and 3 percent of the blame, respectively, for the disaster. In response to the court’s decision, BP released a statement [text] calling the finding of gross negligence “erroneous” and indicating that they will appeal the case the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website].
The court’s ruling Wednesday is the most recent decision in a long series of legal battles that have arisen from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon Crisis, which killed 11 people and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In May BP asked [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to stay a March ruling requiring the company to make massive settlement payments as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Earlier in May BP announced it would appeal [JURIST report] the Fifth Circuit’s ruling to the US Supreme Court, after the Fifth Circuit voted eight-five not to allow BP to appeal its case to the Fifth Circuit en banc. Also in May the Fifth Circuit issued a mandate [ERG law report] to the district court to lift the injunction in accordance with its December 2013 decision [JURIST report], which held BP could not require businesses to prove their economic losses were directly caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill under the terms of the settlement agreement.