More than 100 lawsuits against BP about a series of fatal 2005 blasts should be settled by next week, the plaintiffs’ attorney said Monday. The pending settlement may get the company’s CEO off the hook from having to testify before a federal court.
Still, BP’s top executive, John Browne, may have to give a deposition related to remaining cases being heard in a state district court in Galveston.
A judge last week ordered Browne’s deposition in the federal lawsuits stemming from the March 2005 blasts that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the 52 federal cases and 59 more pending in state court, said three other cases were settled Monday and that he expected the rest to be finalized within 10 days.
“I think my clients are going to do great and I’m very happy,” Buzbee said. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t settle the cases, I would assure you.”
The settlements are the latest of nearly 1,000 the refinery operator has settled since the March 2005 blasts.
“We have more cases we are continuing to try to settle,” BP attorney Kenneth Tekell said. “We are attempting to get everything settled.”
While the settlements would appear to relieve Browne of having to be deposed for the federal court cases, Judge Susan Criss of the 212th Judicial District Court had yet to decide if he would be forced to give statements in lawsuits yet to be settled.
Those cases include that of Eva Rowe, whose parents, James and Linda Rowe, were among the 15 killed in the explosions that ripped through an octane- boosting unit at BP’s Texas City refinery.
“Eva and my other clients are standing tall and firm,” said Rowe’s attorney, Brent Coon. He said he didn’t expect any settlements anytime soon. Rowe has said previously she has no intentions of settling with BP. Her case is set to begin next month.
Criss called for another hearing Wednesday morning before ruling on whether plaintiffs’ attorneys can depose Browne.
Attorneys representing plaintiffs in the state cases against BP told Criss in a hearing Monday that Browne had demonstrated personal knowledge of the blasts in town-hall meetings and media interviews.
However, BP attorney James Galbraith said the two sides had agreed that BP would provide John Manzoni, BP’s chief executive of refining and marketing, in exchange for the plaintiffs agreeing not to seek a deposition from Browne. “We have a contract,” he said.
Galbraith’s opponents said that Manzoni’s claims to know next to nothing about the blasts, which suggested Browne is the executive with the knowledge they want.
Monday’s settlement announcement came just as Browne was conducting a video conference question-and-answer session with select employees at BP’s Texas City, Carson City, Calif., and Cherry Point, Wash, facilities. About 180 Texas City BP employees took part in the back-and-forth with Browne, which included pointed questions about BP’s commitment to the local refinery. Browne reportedly assured Texas City employees the company is committed to the refinery for the long haul.
Scott E. Williams and T.J. Aulds
The Daily News
October 10, 2006