The trial over fault for the 2010 BP Plc Gulf of Mexico oil spill shouldn’t be delayed until after a proposed November hearing on a settlement of most private-party claims, the state of Alabama said.
BP and some parties suing the company over the spill filed a proposed settlement agreement April 18 with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans for preliminary approval. They asked Barbier to hold a Nov. 8 fairness hearing before final approval of the accord and to postpone any trial on liability until after that hearing.
By proposing a delay in the trial, “BP has sketched a blueprint for avoiding liability with the governments for years,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a court filing today. “The governments deserve our day in court.”
Strange asked Barbier to set a trial date for the liability phase for July 16. If Barbier grants a delay, the state wants the new trial date to be set for Nov. 26, Strange said. The first trial should include BP’s liability for the spill, despite any settlements with private plaintiffs, the Alabama AG said.
“BP is the primary defendant,” Strange said. “It would be virtually impossible to try a liability case without BP. BP’s fault for the explosion and resulting spill is intertwined with the fault of their co-defendants.”
The blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. In response, President Barack Obama imposed a moratorium on deep-water drilling.
BP agreed in March to pay an estimated $7.8 billion to resolve private plaintiffs’ claims for economic loss, property damage and spill and pollution-related injuries. The settlement, reached March 2, days before a scheduled trial on liability for the 2010 spill, doesn’t cover federal government claims and those of the Gulf Coast states Louisiana and Alabama.
Also excluded are claims by financial institutions, casinos, private plaintiffs in parts of Florida and Texas, and residents and businesses claiming harm from the drilling moratorium.
The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP; Transocean Ltd., the Vernier, Switzerland-based owner and operator of the rig; and Houston-based Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services. Those claims remain pending following the proposed settlement.
The U.S. sued BP, Transocean and BP’s partners in the well, Mitsui & Co.’s MOEX Offshore 2007 and The Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp., alleging violations of federal pollution laws. MOEX has settled the federal claims.
The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).