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article imageJudge tells BP lawyers, 'This is not a college term paper'

By Karen Graham     Sep 17, 2014 in Environment
Though a federal judge found British Petroleum not only negligent, but reckless in the operation of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion earlier this month, the oil giant's legal team is still having a hard time playing by the rules.
Using an old dodge tried by countless students for years, the BP legal team tried to squeeze in six additional pages of an appeals filing by changing the spacing on the printed pages to get around a court-imposed page limit on the length of the filing.
District Court Judge Carl Barbier was not impressed. His reprimand was rather unusual, for a federal judge, but at the same time proved to be appropriate, especially given the seriousness of the case. "Finally, the Court must address the format of BP’s opposition memorandum,” Barbier concluded in his court order on Monday. Judge Barbier further elaborated:
BP’s counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP’s counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly six pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules—particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. Counsel are expected to follow the Court’s orders both in letter and in spirit. The Court should not have to resort to imposing character limits, etc., to ensure compliance. Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here. Any future briefs using similar tactics will be struck.
On Sept. 4, U.S. District Court Judge Barbier found British Petroleum negligent and reckless in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster killed 11 people and did billions of dollars in damages to the gulf and its waters, fisheries, marine and bird life and people's health, as well as reaching the shores of five states.
Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and Halliburton were also found responsible, but to a lesser degree. " "BP's conduct was reckless,' Barbier wrote in his decision in New Orleans federal court. 'Transocean's conduct was negligent. Halliburton's conduct was negligent." Under the Clean Water Act, BP could end up paying as much as $18 billion in fines.
On Wednesday, Sept. 3, Haliburton, the company hired to cement the well head in the Gulf of Mexico, agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by thousands of businesses in the gulf region for $1.1 billion.
In July, months before the final ruling on the Deepwater Horizon case, BP was already involved in settling the over 10,000 medical claims for health problems resulting from the oil spill. The payments covered claims for respiratory problems and skin ailments.
At the same time, lawyers were working on claims by clean-up workers and residents in the affected area. These claims range from $900 to over $60,000. According to Fortune, the BP settlement also provides $105 million to fund the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program, “which consists of projects designed to strengthen the healthcare system in the Gulf Coast region."
Is it any wonder that lawyers for British Petroleum were trying to get as many words in their filing as they possibly could. They probably had a lot to say, but it may already be too late.
More about Deepwater horizon oil spill, Reprimand, page limit, medical claims, Gulf of Mexico
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