Second BP trial ends early with settlement

Marilyn Tennissen Dec. 19, 2007, 4:36am

A trial against BP ended early when the company reached a settlement Dec. 18 with several victims of the 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery.

The trial stemmed from lawsuits by eight men who were injured in the explosion that killed 15 contract workers.

According the Houston Chronicle, each of the injured men testified before the jury of nine women and three men in District Judge Susan Criss' courtroom in Galveston before the trial ended. However the plaintiffs had not presented their entire case and BP had yet to present a defense.

Settlement terms were not disclosed.

"I'm glad to have it over, and hopefully this will make it better for everybody else in the plant," said plaintiff Bobby Moore, 58, to the Chronicle.

Moore testified he was blown to the ground and then ran from the blast as debris landed around him, afraid he would die.

In September, another jury, in the first trial to emerge from the blast, was dismissed early when BP reached settlements with four other plaintiffs. None of those plaintiffs got to testify.

BP has sought to settle lawsuits, and announced this week that it has depleted a $1.6 billion special fund designated for claims from the explosion. About half of 4,000 claims have settled, including all of the death claims. The next trial is set for May.

BP spokesman Neil Chapman said that the company was pleased to resolve the cases.

The explosion happened when a tower in a unit that boosted octane in gasoline overfilled with flammable hydrocarbons, causing a vapor cloud to be released from a blowdown stack. The cloud ignited, likely from a pickup truck running nearby. The 15 contract workers who died were in a trailer 121 feet away, too close to a processing unit under BP's own policy. Many more people were hurt.

BP is replacing the blowdown stacks with flares as part of a $1 billion overhaul to the plant.

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