BP trial ends in settlement after nine weeks

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 22, 2008, 7:48am

Brent Coon

GALVESTON – Jurors in the latest trial arising from the March 2005 explosions at the BP refinery in Texas City like those before them will not get a chance to deliberate, as the four remaining plaintiffs settled their claims Monday evening.

Galveston County 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss made the announcement Tuesday morning, leaving some members of the 14-person jury stunned and speechless.

The settlements arrived just as the London-based petroleum company resumed its case after a weeklong break.

Defense attorneys previously brought in physicians to discredit the findings and recommendations of the doctors who treated workers harmed in the incident, which killed 15 and injured more than 170.

Criss and attorneys from both sides commended the jury for their service during the two-month case.

The trial began on May 22 with 10 plaintiffs who were suing BP for $950 million in punitive damages for injuries they allegedly suffered in the blasts.

The petroleum company admitted culpability in the incident, but maintained that the event could not be fully responsible for all of the reported injuries.

At nine weeks, this is the longest an explosion-related civil trial has lasted. The unprecedented length pushed back a number of criminal cases awaiting Criss, prompting the judge to impose a deadline on lead plaintiffs' lawyer, Brent Coon of Beaumont.

In addition, this was the third instance in which the jury was not required to reach a verdict. The two previous trials ended after a few days of testimony.

The settlement amounts for the four plaintiffs were not disclosed.

To date, the company has paid more than $1 billion in victim compensation and a fine of $21.4 million to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

BP said in a prepared statement it regrets the tragedy and is working hard toward becoming an industry leader in the areas or process and personal safety.

Just seven cases remain pending, which is a far cry from the more than 4,000 at the start of the class action lawsuit. Another trial is tentatively set for September.

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