The April 2010 the company’s Macondo well blowout and the explosion that followed killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The sinking of Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the spill led to hundreds of lawsuits against BP and its partners and contractors.
The Justice Department sued BP in December 2010, alleging the company failed to prevent or contain the spill and seeking fines for each barrel of oil discharged.
The government estimated that more than 4 million barrels of oil were spilled. If BP is found to be grossly negligent, a legal standard the government would have to prove showing the accident resulted from a conscious BP act or omission, it could be fined as much as much as $4,300 per barrel.
BP set aside $3.5 billion to pay potential Clean Water Act fines, using its own estimate of 3.2 million barrels and a maximum fine of $1,100 per barrel without gross negligence.
BP reached a settlement with most non-government plaintiffs in March, agreeing to pay an estimated $7.8 billion. That settlement averted a trial scheduled to determine liability for the disaster.
BP agreed to pay most claims for economic loss, property damage and injuries from businesses, property owners and other non-government victims of the spill. BP also established a medical-monitoring program to handle claims from people who contend they are suffering medical problems from the oil or chemicals used to clean it up.
BP and lawyers representing non-government victims of the spill won preliminary court approval of the proposed settlement agreement in May and argued for final approval at a hearing on Nov. 8. A decision is pending.
The government case is U.S. v. BP Exploration & Production Inc., 2:10-cv-04536, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). The lawsuit is part of In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).