Hold BP executives, who pushed production over protection and profits over safety, responsible for the catastrophe that began with the Deepwater Horizon explosion, urged a lawyer Monday, the first day of phase one of the trial this week in New Orleans.
Trial phase one: BP, Transocean, Halliburton
BP executives more focused on cost-cutting and oil production than safety should be held responsible for the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history, a lawyer told a courtroom Monday as a long-awaited trial that began in New Orleans Monday.
Monday, the first phase of the trial focuses on how much each company involved in the catastrophe is to blame and the degree of negligence.
On Monday, as the legal showdown began in New Orleans, speaking for plaintiffs suing well owner BP Plc , drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd, cement services provider Halliburton Co and others, lawyer Jim Roy said BP executives at the highest level felt pressure to push output to the limit.
Defendants include the U.S. Justice Department, several Gulf Coast states, and plaintiffs represented by Roy that did not participate in an $8.5 billion settlement BP struck last year.
The stakes are enormous, with potential liabilities stretching into the tens of billions of dollars if Judge Carl Barbier determines BP or the others were grossly negligent.
Reuters describes the difference between simple and gross negligence, a difference possibly involving tens of billions of dollars:
"Simple negligence involves mistakes. Gross negligence involves reckless or willful disregard for human and environmental safety and is a difficult standard to prove, experts say.
"Gross negligence opens the door to punitive damages against BP, Transocean and Halliburton - above potentially billions in fines under the Clean Water Act."
Phase two of the trial is slated for September. That's when it will focus on the rate that oil gushed from the well.
The third phase in 2014 will consider damages.