Wait is on for judge's ruling in BP oil spill trial

May 27, 2013
Wait is on for judge's ruling in BP oil spill trial
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico after the massive explosion on April 20, 2010. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Ed Sherman, a Tulane University law professor specializing in complex litigation, continues to closely monitor the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill trial in New Orleans, almost three years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire and exploded off the coast of Louisiana.

It may take a year for a ruling to come down on the initial phase of the trial, which ended in April, to determine the liability of the BP oil company and its drilling partners for the explosion and subsequent oil spill.

Sherman says the stakes are high for BP, which spent the lion's share of the first phase of the trial trying to deflect part of the blame for the disaster onto , which leased the to BP, and Haliburton, which laid the cement to cap the well. BP also is fighting the plaintiffs' assertion that it was gross negligence that led to the blowout rather than simple negligence.

A determination of gross negligence could result in a four-fold increase in fines for BP. "That is a very critical factor because billions of dollars rests on that determination," Sherman says. "The government is seeking civil penalties under the , which sets out damages for every barrel of oil spilled. If it is gross negligence, it would be about $17 billion, and if it's mere negligence, it would only be a few billion."

Regardless of the outcome, Sherman sees such a multifaceted case as a tremendous teaching opportunity for the students in his complex litigations course. His class followed the case closely, had an opportunity to observe the trial and even met with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who took questions and explained aspects of the case.

"This is the perfect example of big, multiparty cases, so it was a nice paradigm for the students to study."

Explore further: Globalisation doesn't automatically make countries better off

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Three years after Gulf spill, BP fights huge fines

Apr 18, 2013

Three years after a deadly explosion on a BP-leased drilling rig unleashed the worst environmental disaster in US history, the British energy giant is fighting to avoid billions in fines.

BP accused of gross negligence in US spill

Sep 05, 2012

The US Justice Department has accused oil giant BP of "gross negligence and willful misconduct" in the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, in court documents obtained Wednesday.

BP says US oil spill trial could 'last until 2014'

Feb 26, 2012

British energy giant BP is prepared for a multi-billion-dollar US legal case into the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill to last until 2014, its chief executive told the Sunday Telegraph.

Recommended for you

When aid brings conflict, not relief

Jan 28, 2015

Although you might expect that providing aid to impoverished villages in the Philippines could only bring them relief, a University of Illinois study found that the villages that qualified for some forms of aid actually saw ...

Study calls for audit transparency

Jan 26, 2015

As major accounting companies increasingly outsource audit work to other firms, a new study from the University of Colorado Denver Business School says greater transparency is needed to help investors assess the quality of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.