Wednesday, December 30, 2009

$100.3 Million Judgment Sought Against BP, According to The Buzbee Law Firm

/PRNewswire/ -- A Texas federal court was asked late Tuesday to enter a $100.3 million judgment against BP (NYSE:BP) after a federal jury rejected the company's denials about a series of allegedly toxic emissions in 2007 at its Texas City refinery, according to The Buzbee Law Firm.

On Dec. 18, a jury in Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt's court in Galveston, Texas awarded $100 million in punitive damages to 10 contract workers who alleged that they were exposed in a series of toxic emissions in early 2007 at the BP Texas City refinery. The trial was for the first 10 of at least 160 plaintiffs with pending claims related to the emissions. The Buzbee Law Firm intends to ask the court to select 10 more plaintiffs for trial as soon as possible.

Trial evidence showed that more than 100 people, including the 10 trial plaintiffs, were sent by BP to hospitals for medical treatment after the emissions. Hospital records confirmed the toxic exposure.

At trial, BP repeatedly denied that a leak had occurred. The company then claimed that the leak came from another source. However, BP could not identify the source, or explain why no other energy facilities in the area experienced emissions problems. Also, the company "suggested to the press that the entire incident may be a hoax by 'disgruntled workers,'" according to the workers' complaint. Trial testimony from industry experts confirmed that a leak did occur.

Also, the jury heard evidence that:

-- In the five years before the trial, more than 500 releases, spills,
leaks, and odor events have occurred at the refinery.
-- More than 45 unlawful pollutant emissions occurred at the refinery
during this same time period.
-- According to BP's former Fire Chief, the refinery averages one fire
per week.
-- An average of 200 leaks occur each year in valves, pumps, and
connectors at the refinery.
-- About 70 percent of the "odor events" at the refinery are either not
investigated by or not sourced by BP.
-- In recent months, BP was cited for hundreds of "willful and egregious"
federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
violations related to process safety deficiencies at the refinery.

In trial, the judge presented the jury with a series of instructions and questions - including whether punitive damages should be awarded. The instructions stated that, if the jury found that "BP's conduct was so shocking and offensive as to justify an award of punitive damage," it should consider making such an award.

Tony Buzbee, the lead trial attorney for seven of the 10 trial plaintiffs, said, "After disparaging the claims of workers at the Texas City refinery, BP then rejected the verdict of a federal jury. This was a jury of sensible people with no ties to the workers or to BP. They were shocked and offended by BP's conduct. We hope the court's entry of this judgment will force BP to finally improve workplace safety at the Texas City refinery. Far too many workers have been killed or injured there through the years. BP employees and contractors deserve much better."

The judgment request includes $325,536 in actual damages, which the jury awarded the 10 trial plaintiffs, plus $14,184 in prejudgment interest and the $100 million in punitive damages.

The case is "Garner, et al., v. BP Products North America, Inc.," Civil Action No. G-07-221, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division.

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