Attorney Tony Buzbee offered BP a chance to settle, but the company denied that there had ever even been a toxic spill at its plant in Texas City and attacked the credibility of the workers who claimed they had been exposed to dangerous chemicals in April 2007. So, Buzbee and the 10 plaintiffs went to trial. “The jury gave exactly the number I asked for—I would say we were very pleased,” he says. “One hundred million dollars is one month's profit at that plant.”
The plant has a history of industrial accidents, including a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured anther 170. Buzbee knows the plant well—he has litigated against it numerous times.
The workers’ lawsuit alleged that in April 2007 more than 100 workers were sent to the hospital after the plant released a toxic substance into the air. Workers reported dizziness and sore throats, and at least one worker passed out.
BP said it was shocked by the verdict, calling it “improper and unsupportable,” and continues to argue that no toxic substance was released.
“BP is the worst polluter in the United States,” says Buzbee. “They have the worst process safety management record in the U.S and they average 200 leaks, spills, and releases per year. What’s more, 70% of the time a vapor is released and causes someone to be sick, BP fails to find the source.”
Buzbee believes the large award in the case is a result of the jury hearing loud and clear that BP needs to change the way it operates. “I urged the jury to be the change that was needed, to hit them hard enough such that BP would pull its head out of the sand,” he says. "Jurors were angry about the safety record I put forth that showed BP has a long history of leaks and releases. My point was BP has not changed, not turned the corner, and if you don't do something about this, no one will."
And there is more litigation to come from Buzbee’s firm against BP. “We currently represent a contract worker killed at BP's land farm,” says Buzbee. “And, yes, we have another 130 or so of these cases to pursue.”
The Buzbee Law Firm handles hundreds of cases every year and has represented a variety of clients in litigation matters. “I like commercial cases, we but have done a variety of cases, all litigation,” says Buzbee. “I've represented Jimmy Buffet (that was fun), the Basque government, the Port of Galveston, injured dredge workers, businessmen, and football players.”
Tony Buzbee is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of Houston Law Centre. He is a former captain in the Marines and served in the first Gulf War and in Somalia.
February 6, 2010