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Reuters: Lawyer accuses BP lawyer of improper settlement offer

HOUSTON, Sept 1 (Reuters) – A lawyer for workers hurt in the 2005 BP Plc Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 people has asked the judge to sanction BP for an alleged improper settlement offer, according to a court document filed on Friday.

In the motion filed in Galveston, plaintiffs’ lawyer Anthony Buzbee said the attorney who referred the case to him was offered a $10 million donation to his favorite charity, in his name, if the case settled.

Buzbee charged in his motion that the offer violated Texas rules of ethics for lawyers by attempting to create a conflict of interest between the lawyer and his clients, whose cases are set for trial Sept. 18.

A BP spokesman rejected the allegation of impropriety. “We don’t characterize the discussions the way Mr. Buzbee does,” spokesman Neil Chapman said.

An attached affidavit from the referring attorney, Greg Alexander, said that BP lawyer Kenneth Tekell “offered to donate $10 million to the faith-based charity of plaintiff’s counsel’s choice, in plaintiff’s counsel’s name, upon settlement.”

Tekell, member of a Houston firm representing BP, did not return a call for comment.

“Our focus has been on resolving claims without the need for lengthy litigation … We’re interested and we listen to and try and address, where possible, specific interests that claimants and their lawyers express,” Chapman said.

Buzbee said in his motion that Alexander “is a devout man who heavily supports several ministries” and the offer “had great value to him personally” but he rejected it.
 
“BP has spent a lot of money in the community in an attempt to create favorable press about itself,” Buzbee said in his motion. “Defendant’s conduct herein is reprehensible and should be punished.”

Buzbee asked state District Judge Susan Criss to impose unspecified monetary sanctions on BP, order the lawyer to cease the alleged conduct and require BP to pay $5,000 to cover the cost of filing the motion.

A clerk for Criss said the judge had not yet seen or ruled on the motion.

(Additional reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Gary Hill; Reuters messaging [email protected]; Email [email protected]; +1 713-210-8510))

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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