High-stakes trial against BP begins for Gulf oil spill
Company could face billions in penalties if found negligent
- Duration 7:57
- Date Feb 25, 2013
Company could face billions in penalties if found negligent
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From fox at 3 o'clock in New York City today opening arguments are under way in -- high -- civil trial against the oil giant BP.
Over that 2010 disaster that devastated the American gulf south.
A judge in New Orleans open proceedings by warning this will be a lengthy trial.
Some 400 minutes of opening arguments eleven teams of attorneys and eighty witnesses set to testify.
Witnesses including a taped deposition.
That BP's former CEO Tony Hayward the man who famously said he just wanted his life back.
Eleven men died when the deep water horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico -- crippled well gushed oil for three solid months.
Close to five million barrels of toxic crude poisoned wildlife contaminated coastline and cost people their livelihoods.
BP of course struck a deal on the criminal charges but that was just -- beginning in a criminal trial it paid four billion dollars in fines.
Now billions and billions more on the line in the civil case which seeks to prove that BP and its partners were grossly negligent.
A lot of folks thought this trial would never happened if it may never finish.
It all most thought BP would have settled to avoid the bad press by now.
According to the reporting -- -- of times newspaper there is a proposed deal on the table what one which would cost BP some sixteen billion dollars.
But so far BP's attorneys seem to be digging in for a fight calling the government demands for more money excessive.
It's fox top story this hour Casey Stegall is on it live from the courthouse in New Orleans.
This trial if it actually goes the whole way could take forever.
Yes -- it really could that's because it's divided into the two phases phase one is what started today.
And that is essentially looking at everything that led up to the accident itself.
What -- the natural gas to leak from that well on the bottom of the ocean floor in the first place.
How -- they get to the surface of the deep water horizon rig and explode and what caused the rig to sink snapping that pipe in half.
Up and then the second phase if it happens is scheduled for September and it's gonna focus.
On BP's response to this bill and how much oil really -- because as of right now BP is disputing the federal government estimates.
Of four point nine million barrels and that is very important here since the judge will base the penalty on that total.
Number of barrels.
If you grossly negligent the penalty is over 54000.
Dollars per barrel -- you're not grossly negligent then that's a little over a thousand so.
Those two factors combined.
Is why you get these these wide variations.
And of course we've been talking about the trial that started this morning but at any given time during this whole proceeding shepherd BP.
Can opt to settle if they choose to do sell it and there's a serious argument being made there that civil suit in all of this money aside.
There's more penalty that's deserved here and a lot more.
Yeah exactly basically the judge this is not a trial by jury a judge will ultimately decide and they can order that BP and its partners to pay upwards of eighteen billion dollars but a lot of folks are saying that nowhere near touches.
Fixing the problem.
And that's one of the exact reasons why you had protesters.
On the steps of the federal courthouse in New Orleans this morning greeting.
The droves of attorneys representing BP Transocean and Halliburton as they walked in the front door.
Most of them environmentalist who could say it shouldn't take an additional 25.
Billion dollars to really.
Recoup what has been lost here because it may have been three years since this bill but the golf is still suffering.
We know that BP's oil is still in this ecosystem we find it after -- of every storm event.
-- expose a heck of a lot of BP's oil we -- about twenty miles of Louisiana's coastline.
Closed down because the oil that was there we found it in the bay that we hadn't seen it.
At such levels before.
And many of the folks that we've talked to down here say that simply by not settling and choosing to go to trial shepherd.
They believe visit is indication of British Petroleum and arrogance with this whole thing.
Arrogance from British Petroleum.
All right Casey Stegall at the courthouse.
In New Orleans in certain -- things -- think -- the judge now our senior judicial analyst judge Andrew Napolitano.
Is with a sense -- you BO voted six straight -- was mentioned in his report.
But here's the key to all of this BP would -- was either negligent or it was grossly negligent.
If it was negligent it's gonna pay 11100 dollars per barrel spilled as a civil penalty.
If it was grossly negligent -- pay.
4300 dollars per barrel so if it's negligent the penalty is four point five billion if it's grossly negligent.
The penalty is seventeen point five billion dollars and that's a big difference -- -- It's an enormous difference -- you're talking about tens of billions of dollars a -- those figures.
Are established by a statute.
Enacted by the congress this is not just some rule made up by the court -- it's a rule of thumb that judges using case like this.
The congress wrote a law back in the Clinton administration and President Clinton signed it into law.
And that's the standard that's -- when you have these -- so how did they decide to.
Whether they were negligent or gross negligence what's the difference between the two.
-- giving an easy example.
You drive your car forty miles an hour in a 25 mile an hour zone that's negligence.
You drive your car eighty miles an hour and a point five mile an hour zone that's gross negligence it has to do with how much you avoided.
The duty you have.
To preserve the asset and to keep the people that work for you and the property around you say.
OK -- more more closely tied example might be.
If you were trying to save money but you didn't realize where you were skipping was a real problem might cost lives that's one thing.
But if you saw there are problems here we know the rules we're breaking the rules to save money because we think that's -- -- sure that would be gross negligence now and ended the argument has been made in the criminal trial suggests.
That's what happened.
I don't think I don't matter which way the judge is gonna go on this but I know how he's gonna decide he's going if if -- -- trial I have but I think the case we'll settle before the end of this week.
But if there is a trial this judge you will sit and listen to the testimony of expert witnesses that the plaintiffs here are the government the federal government.
And the states of Texas Alabama and Louisiana Mississippi and Florida.
And they are arguing they lost tax revenue because people couldn't work with somebody living and pay their taxes which they did.
That they spent a lot of money to keep people alive who couldn't work which they did that they have a lot of public property which is damaged which they did and that they are entitled to this money.
To compensate them for the money that they laid out and the money that didn't come -- So those are the arguments that judge is going here.
That governments are going to put on witnesses -- demonstrate to the judge why it was gross negligence.
And BP will put on witnesses these are technical people engineers who will try and demonstrate to the chance that it was simple negligence not gross negligence and the judge.
Will decide -- -- believes so -- BP want to.
Roll the dice with this judge who -- they wanna -- into a structured settlement will pay some money now in some money in the future rather than paying all of it once so much money.
They're gonna have to go out and Bartlett and maybe even sell assets in -- to pay.
-- All right judge will know from the tone of this thing I think we've we've learned a little bit about the tone this morning -- -- -- their report from us for us.
Whether the -- -- to the defendants.
Have the upper hand with the judge.
May be known pretty quickly I think we'll probably know by the end of the week which way it looks like this is gonna go and Elmo till which helps analysts well yes it will just appalled I don't think you look.