U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Kent ordered BP’s top executive to give a deposition to attorneys representing workers injured in the March 2005 blasts at the company’s Texas City facility.
The deposition of John Browne is for the 52 cases filed in federal court and is separate from a still-contested deposition sought in cases filed at the state level. Browne is CEO of the London-based company.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Anthony Buzbee called the ruling “a great victory” that would help bring justice for those harmed in the blasts.
“With this ruling, Judge Kent has basically said that no one is above the law,” Buzbee said. “If this man has enough time to come to Texas City and pat people on the back, why can’t he sit in his office for six hours and answer questions under oath?”
BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell reiterated the arguments of the company’s attorneys, saying Browne had no “unique knowledge” of the explosions that rocked Texas City more than 18 months ago.
Chappell said the company had published its own investigative findings online and had provided the plaintiffs with every document provided to government investigators.
“Our transparency extends far, far beyond what occurred in court today,” he said.
Buzbee said the as-yet-unscheduled deposition would occur on Browne’s home turf in London.
Chappell declined to say whether BP would appeal Kent’s ruling.
“We certainly respect the decision of the court, and now, we will take the time to consider our options,” he said.
Buzbee said the company’s stated desire for transparency should keep it from appealing.
“If they truly want to be transparent, it shouldn’t be a problem for the head man in charge to answer a few questions,” Buzbee.
BP has settled about 600 claims stemming from the blasts, which killed 15 and injured more than 100.
The first state trial over the blasts, previously set for Sept. 18, is now scheduled for next month in the 2 12th State District Court.
Scott E. Williams
The Daily News
October 7, 2006