It has been over four years since the BP oil disaster occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, and litigation in connection with the incident is still ongoing. The most recent development was a decision by a federal judge that the company acted with gross negligence and willful misconduct in the spill, a decision that could mean the company has to pay significantly more in penalties.
The suit itself was brought by the federal government and five states in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as numerous individuals and businesses which were harmed by the spill. The additional penalties fall under the federal Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of contaminants into federal waters. BP has stated that it disagrees with the decision and is planning to appeal.
The additional penalties are separate from a 2012 settlement the company struck with various plaintiffs, mostly non-government ones. The impact on many individuals and businesses in that area of the country was huge. The ongoing litigation is primarily for economic and environmental losses.
The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for enforcing compliance with the Clean Water Act, but citizens are able to pursue litigation under the Clean Water Act through what is known as a citizen suit. Those who wish to pursue a citizen suit are ideally working with an attorney who can help them navigate the process. In addition, an attorney will be able to assist in other causes of action which can address losses and personal injury associated with water contamination.
Source: Businessweek, “BP Found Grossly Negligent in 2010 Spill; Fines May Rise,” Fisk, Calkins, Feeley, September 4, 2014.