After creating a stir at a BP multi-district litigation (MDL) status conference on Friday, BP counsel have filed documents in the Eastern District of Louisiana declaring "BP has chosen to waive the statutory [$75 million] limitation on liability" under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA).
At an MDL status conference Oct. 15, BP counsel would not directly answer presiding U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's questions about whether the oil company would invoke the OPA cap during trial.
BP attorney Don Haycraft emphasized BP's stance that it would "pay all legitimate claims." But when Barbier asked if that statement had a footnote "up to $75 million," Haycraft said that he was "not prepared to respond to that specific question in that context."
Plaintiff attorney Steve Herman, who is part of the plaintiff steering committee, said that he and other plaintiff attorneys were "shocked" when they heard the defense bring up the $75 million cap.
In BP's court filing submitted Oct. 18, the company asked other named defendants in the case to also waive the liability cap. At the status conference Oct. 15, BP lawyers disclosed that the company had already paid out more than $1.4 billion in claims through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
BP repeated a statement in its filing expressed at the status conference: that it will reserve the right to seek compensation from other defendants.
At the status conference, BP expressed concern over being held liable for all damages and liability in upcoming bellwether and test trials in the summer of 2011. Barbier said that OPA statutes specifically provide defendants the right to do so.
U.S. Eastern District of Louisiana No. 10-MDL-2179