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Daily Telegraph: BP settles at 11th hour as legal claims continue to pile up

Daily Telegraph image

(The Texas City blast killed 15
people and injured over 100)

By Russell Hotten, Industry Editor
Last Updated: 1:15am GMT 24/02/2007

US lawyers pursuing BP over the Texas City refinery explosion said there would be no let-up in their campaign, after the oil giant made an 11th-hour out-of-court settlement in another two claims brought by workers injured in the fatal blast.  
 
A Houston court was to hear the latest compensation claim on Monday, but BP said yesterday that it had agreed an undisclosed financial settlement with the two workers.

It followed Thursday’s ruling by the Texas Supreme Court delaying a request from lawyers that BP chief executive Lord Browne make a taped witness statement that would have been heard during the court case.

Brent Coon, a Houston attorney representing the two workers, was due in London yesterday to take the deposition. The Supreme Court will decide in the next few weeks if the statement should take place.

Meanwhile, Mr Coon said he would now seek court approval to release publicly the evidence he planned to use in court. In a previous case, involving Eva Rowe, whose parents died in the explosion, the release of documents revealed lapses in safety.

The Texas City blast killed 15 people and seriously injured more than 100. Hundreds of other people suffered more minor injuries, loss, and damage to property.

Mr Coon said his office alone was dealing with about 155 other claims against BP. The company faces more than 1,700 claims, including at least 50 filed this month.
  
BP has resolved more than 1,250 claims, including all those concerning the deaths. The oil company has set aside $1.6bn (£800m) to settle explosion claims.

The settlement of yesterday’s lawsuits involved two workers in their 60s who suffered back injuries and post-traumatic stress. Mr Coon said the claims were settled because BP “finally offered amounts I could recommend to my clients”.

Neil Chapman, a BP spokesman in Houston, said: “We’ve been working to settle all these cases since the incident occurred so people don’t have to resort to litigation.”

BP has come under intense scrutiny since the accident. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company a record $21m for safety violations.

The US Chemical Safety Board is due next month to publish what is expected to be a highly critical report on the company.

An independent panel led by former US Secretary of State James Baker also investigated BP’s safety culture and determined that company leadership failed to make safety a top priority.

The company has admitted safety lapses at the Texas City plant and said it never intentionally endangered lives. BP said no individual was to blame.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml;jsessionid=PTNPHPUMIOM3DQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/money/2007/02/24/cnbp24.xml

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