BP asks for retrial in $18B Gulf oil spill damages claim

Gulf Oil Spill Trial

A New Orleans court recently said BP could end up having to pay as much as $18 billion in civil damages related to the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, but the company disputes that ruling and may appeal. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

BP has asked for a retrial or at least a reduced judgment from the $18 billion in damages levied this month for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, arguing the judge relied on inadmissible evidence.

The British energy conglomerate petitioned a New Orleans court late Thursday, asking for the retrial in the case overseen by Judge Carl Barbier.

Earlier this month, Barbier ruled that BP was “grossly negligent” and “reckless” in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which killed 11 people and damaged thousands of miles of coastline.

In his ruling, Barbier said BP was two-thirds responsible for the tragedy (with the rest split between rig operator TransOcean and cement contractor Halliburton), and his use of those two key phrases meant the company can be obliged to pay damages of up to $4,300 for every barrel of oil that spilled.

The underwater well cap spewed oil for 87 days straight, tabbing BP’s total bill at about $17.6 billion under rules in America’s Clean Water Act.

Essentialy, BP’s argument for a new trial boils down to the company’s view that the evidence presented by one of Halliburton’s expert witnesses, Gene Beck of Texas A&M University, should be inadmissible.

BP says it wasn’t given enough time to properly counter Beck’s comments. BP also noted that while the judge upheld the company’s objections to Beck’s comments during the trial, the judge nonetheless included his testimony in reaching his verdict.

Including the up to $18 billion in civil penalties that BP is on the hook for, the company says its total bill for all cleanup and litigation related to the disaster is more than $42 billion.

At the very least, the move buys BP some time.

Originally, the company had 60 days from the date of the judgment, Sept. 4, to appeal.

The new motion means it now has 60 days from whenever the judge responds to the request to launch an appeal.

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