Shares in BP tumbled after a US court found it acted with “gross negligence” in creating the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“BP’s conduct was reckless,” US Diustrict Judge Carl Barbier ruled in a New Orleans federal court.
BP was not the only one found to have behaved negligently over America’s biggest environmental disaster. Engineers on the rig Transocean and Halliburton were similarly cited, although they were not found as responsible as BP was.
Shares in BP fell 5 per cent in the minutes after the long-awaited ruling. They fell 22.6p to 461.15p.
In a case which is likely to set the benchmark on how much compensation the companies will have to pay, Judge Barbier found BP responsible for 67 per cent of the blame, 30 per cent for Transocean and 3 per cent for Halliburton.
As well as facing fines of up to $18bn, BP is also facing a class action lawsuit including many UK investors, as The Independent revealed earlier this year. They are likely to use Judge Barbier’s ruling to add weight to their case.
However, the Judge did not rule on how much oil was spilled. This will be crucial to decide how much BP faces in total fines.