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International Herald Tribune: Shakers: BP chief tries to resist testifying in blast case

Laurel Brubaker Calkins Bloomberg News

GALVESTON, Texas: BP chief tries to resist testifying in blast case

John Browne, the chief executive of the oil company BP, should not have to give sworn statements to workers injured in a 2005 blast at its Texas refinery, company lawyers have told the Texas Supreme Court.

But a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who are urging Browne to testify, said Thursday that the executive was “ultimately responsible” for the budget cuts that preceded the accident at a Texas refinery.

Neither the public statements of Browne nor the depositions of less-senior officials indicate that the chief executive had direct knowledge of the causes of the accident, BP said in papers filed with the court Monday. Browne, appealed a lower court order for him to testify and was granted an emergency stay by the Texas Supreme Court on Feb. 22, the day before he was scheduled to give a sworn deposition in London.

“Plaintiffs’ evidence reveals no facts of which Browne is aware that are not known by others in the operation,” Katherine Mackillop, a BP lawyer, wrote in the appellate filing.

BP, one of Europe’s top oil companies, set aside $1.6 billion to settle more than 1,750 claims arising from the March 23, 2005, explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery. The blast killed 15 and injured hundreds.

“We’ve interviewed probably 150 corporate officials, and we’ve worked our way all the way up the corporate ladder,” the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Brent Coon, said Thursday.

“He is the guy who was ultimately responsible for the budget cuts the Chemical Safety Board says was the root cause of the explosion, so that alone should be reason enough to depose him.”

Published: March 9, 2007

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