Saturday, December 02, 2006

BP: Bad To Worse To....

It must being brought down to earth when you've become accostomed to being a corporate master of the universe. BP is learning -- very slowly -- that it may, in fact, be subject to the same laws as mere mortals.

BP has not been living up to it promises to pay the medical bills of victims of the March 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180, and BP is ignoring its responsibility to maintain the plant. These accusations come from explosion victims who had previously settled claims with the company.

And a circuit court judge think they have a point.District
judge Susan Criss said that allegations that BP had cut corners in maintaining its refinery were "quite valid." Her comments came in a hearing Friday morning brought by plaintiffs who had previously settled claims with the London-based oil giant.


Judge Criss also ruled that BP will need to provide testimony from two corporate representatives that it has paid the medical bills in question. A lawyer defending BP argued that the corporate representatives have had "very little knowledge" of the allegedly unpaid bills.
Meanwhile, the giant petroleum company is being accused of spying on Eva Rowe and her attorney. Rowe is the daughter of two victims of the Texas City explosion. She settled her lawsuit with BP on the eve of her trial.
BP’s defense team hired private investigators to gather information on a 22-year-old woman whose parents were killed in the 2005 explosions at the Texas City refinery, court records state.

BP’s defense attorneys hired private investigators to keep tabs on Eva Rowe, members of her legal team and the girlfriends of some of the plaintiff’s attorneys, according to court records.

The court documents also state that BP’s defense team gathered “party” photos of lead plaintiff’s attorney Brent Coon. Coon accused BP of spying and said the energy company’s legal team issued subpoenas to the plaintiff’s attorneys’ girlfriends, as well as one of his ex-girlfriends, for the trial that never happened.

BP acknowledged its defense team hired private investigators “to gather information that could be relevant at trial” but denied that its investigators did anything unethical or illegal.
BP spokesman Ronnie Chappel wasn't able to explain why it was relevant to gather photos and information on opposing attorneys or Rowe’s background, but described it as “legal and a common and longstanding practice in civil litigation.” (especially when you're a little person messing with big powerful corporations.)

Judge Criss (see above) was not amused at BP's excuses.

According to the records, Judge Susan Criss, the presiding judge of all the civil cases from the explosions, chastised the defense lawyers and warned them against any shenanigans.

The judge then rejected the defense team’s attempts to subpoena girlfriends of Coon and his associates and said she wouldn’t allow them to be called as witnesses.

The surveillance so enraged Coon that at one point he filed a motion to have sanctions brought against the BP legal team. That motion was summarily sealed when Rowe agreed to the terms of her settlement.

More BP stories here.