Judge Carl Barbier of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] Thursday issued an order [text, PDF] that British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] will be held liable for a portion of the damages owed by Transocean [corporate website] stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. BP will be required to indemnify Transocean against damages created by the pollution itself that are awarded throughout the litigation [materials] pending against it. BP will not be required to pay an punitive damages or civil fines as a result of these suits. The court did not rule as to whether BP or Transocean would be held strictly liable, negligent or grossly negligent for the equipment failure and subsequent oil spill that created the pollution. Transocean is the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that was contracted by BP, which subsequently caused the oil spill. This ruling is separate from a ruling issued [JURIST report] by Barbier in August, which permits punitive damages against BP, but that ruling pertained to claims brought against BP directly.
Last summer Barbier dismissed [JURIST report] consolidated racketeering claims against BP in connection with the spill brought under the US Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [text]. In February of last year, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] asked the district court to order the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) [official website] to fulfill its legal obligations to aid victims of the spill and to remedy inadequate claims mechanisms [JURIST report]. The GCCF began processing claims in August following the completion of negotiations [JURIST reports] between BP and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. Former Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in August 2010 against BP for damages to the state's coast and economy, claiming that the oil giant has failed in its efforts to accept responsibility for the oil spill. In July 2010 a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] was filed against the company in a Louisiana state court alleging that its negligent actions led to the spill and that BP was further negligent in its oversight of the cleanup effort, resulting in volunteers falling ill due to inadequate protective equipment. One month prior, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the DOJ would review whether any criminal or civil laws were violated [JURIST report] by BP.