BP poised for court case after failing to reach civil settlement on oil spill disaster
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Tuesday 19 February 2013
With less than a week to go until a New Orleans court begins hearings in a trial over hundreds of civil claims related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP has said it is ready to defend itself after failing to reach a settlement with US authorities and other claimants, arguing that their demands were "not based on reality."
In a statement ahead of a case which has the potential to saddle the oil giant with billions in damages, BP's general counsel, Rupert Bondy, said: "We have always been open to settlements on reasonable terms, failing which we have always been prepared to defend our case at trial. Faced with demands that are excessive and not based on reality or the merits of the case, we are going to trial."
The trial will determine the causes of the spill, and apportion responsibility to the parties involved, including BP, Transocean and Halliburton.
It brings together hundreds of civil claims against the companies, and will unfold in at least two phases. The first focuses on determining responsibility, while the second will determine how much oil leaked into the Gulf.
The judge will ultimately decide if BP or the other companies involved were grossly negligent – something which the oil giant said would be impossible to prove. "Gross negligence is a very high bar that BP believes cannot be met in this case," Mr Bondy said. "This was a tragic accident, resulting from multiple causes and involving multiple parties. We firmly believe we were not grossly negligent."
The civil case comes after BP settled criminal claims last year by paying $4.5bn (£2.9bn)in what was the biggest criminal penalty in US history.
The deal with the US government also saw it plead guilty to 14 counts of criminal misconduct to resolve all federal criminal charges and claims.
At the time, BP's chief executive, Bob Dudley, apologised for the company's role in disaster.
The key players: Who’s who
BP isn’t the only defendant in the civil trial that commences in New Orleans on Monday. Here are some of the other key players.
The international conglomerate was the contractor responsible for the cement used to seal the bottom of the well and contain the oil and gas.
Company owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig which burned and sank in 2010.
Cameron designed and manufactured the blowout preventer, a fail-safe device meant to stop the uncontrolled flow oil and gas, installed at the site.
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