Lawsuits Fly And Fizzle To Mark Anniversary Of Deepwater Horizon Explosion

BP is attempting to shift the blame for last year’s oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico onto Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. BP has also announced plans to sue Cameron International, the manufacturer of the blowout preventer on the rig, claiming that the poor design of the blowout preventer led to the device’s failure. In all, BP is seeking $40 billion in damages from the two companies.

In court papers filed by BP, the company claims that every single backup device and safety measure on the Deepwater Horizon rig completely failed in last year’s explosion. BP said the following in its filing:

BP Parties bring this action to hold Transocean accountable for having caused the blowout, explosion, fire, deaths and personal injuries, and subsequent oil spill …But for Transocean’s improper conduct, errors, omissions, and violations of maritime law, there would not have been any blowout of the exploratory well.”

In the suit filed against Cameron International, the manufacturer of the blowout preventer (BOP), BP claimed the following:

“The Deepwater Horizon BOP was unreasonably dangerous, and has caused and continues to cause harm, loss, injuries, and damages to BP (and others) stemming from the blowout of Macondo well, the resulting explosion and fire onboard the Deepwater Horizon, the efforts to regain control of the Macondo well, and the oil spill that ensued before control of the Macondo well could be regained.”

Wednesday was the deadline for companies to file suit against one another. BP has already filed a suit against Halliburton, which supplied the flawed cement that was supposed to hold the rig in place.

While BP is clearly trying to shift blame onto the other companies, it might have every reason to do so. Reports show that both Transocean and Cameron International routinely cut corners on safety. Earlier this month, Mike Fry, an equipment manager for Transocean, testified before a government committee that while Transocean did regularly inspect, repair, and replace any damaged safety equipment on the rig, including the blowout preventer, they never fully overhauled the device after five years as mandated by safety standards. The rig was in operation for nine years before it exploded last year, meaning that the blowout preventer should have been completely overhauled four years prior to the accident.

When asked whether the safety standards on the rig could have allowed faulty equipment to remain in operation, Fry said that they would keep a device in use as long as it appeared to be operating. This means that even if flaws were detected, if the device would still technically operate, it was left alone.

Transocean has also filed for judgments against BP, Cameron, and Halliburton totaling more than $30 million. Transocean claims it is owed this money as part of its contracts with BP and Halliburton, which can no longer be carried out due to the rig’s blowout.

With all of the lawsuits flying around the Gulf Coast and the available evidence, you’d think that the states themselves would be jumping into the fray to recoup the billions of dollars in lost tourism revenue and other economic impacts. States like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have all joined a class action against BP and others, but the state of Florida has decided that they don’t need the money.

Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott announced this week that his state would not be joining the class action because he says “litigation is expensive.” Instead, Scott says that he’ll try to negotiate out of court settlements for Florida, a tactic that has little chance of success. It is worth keeping in mind that Scott made this announcement on Pensacola Beach, where they had to remove 850 pounds of oil in order for him to have a “clean” area to give a speech. 

As a resident of an area that was hit hard by the oil disaster, I see the fight continuing every day. Everyone is fighting – citizens are fighting the government; citizens are fighting the corporations; corporations are fighting each other; the government is fighting corporations.

The media might have paid lip service to the situation down here during this week’s anniversary, but it isn’t enough. When the cameras leave, the fighting resumes, and still no one has been held truly accountable for the disaster.  Will we have a solution by the next anniversary? Or will it be more business as usual bickering and finger-pointing?


What do you mean “no one has been truly held accountable” for the disaster?

Who do you think is paying the cleanup bills? And who is paying for the lost income of fishermen, etc.?