Toxic Fumes Lawsuit Results in $100M Verdict Against BP

A federal jury has awarded more than $100 million to 10 workers who were exposed to toxic fumes at the BP Texas City, Texas oil refinery, mostly involving punitive damages after evidence was submitted about the company’s history of problems at the refinery.

The case was the first of about 100 toxic tort lawsuits against BP, involving 143 workers and nearby residents who claim that there was a release of gases from the refinery that BP refuses to acknowledge.

The plaintiffs allege that the release, which was said to include benzene and other harmful chemicals like aluminum silica, caused foul smells, noticeably changed the air quality and resulted in various personal injuries.

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BP officials maintain that there was no release of toxic fumes and argue that the chemicals must have blown in from somewhere else. However, plaintiffs countered that the company fails to identify about 70% of toxic releases into the environment from the Texas City refinery.

In addition to $10 million in punitive damages for each of the 10 plaintiffs in this case, the Galveston jury awarded $326,000 in compensatory damages for the actual injuries experienced by the plaintiffs. The individual compensatory damage awards for the workers ranged between $5,918 to $244,386, according to Bloomberg News. BP officials indicate that they will appeal the verdict.

BP’s Texas City Refinery is the third-largest oil refinery in the United States, and has been the subject of several major safety incidents. As recently as September, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the company with an $87.4 million fine for not complying with a safety agreement made after a March 23, 2005 explosion and fire that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others.

In February 2009, BP Products North America agreed to pay $180 million to resolve a separate environmental lawsuit over benzene emissions at the oil refinery. That case involved violations of a 2001 consent decree and Clean Air regulations which were identified during inspections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the March 2005 blast.

Under the terms of that settlement, BP agreed to spend $161 million to address their Clean Air Act violations by setting up better pollution controls, enhanced maintenance and monitoring devices and improving their internal management practices. Another $6 million was designated to fund a project to reduce air pollution in Texas City and $12 million was paid as a penalty.


  • BoskoDecember 22, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    When gasoline has to be imported from China and costs $20 per gallon, the jurors responsible for this disgrace will be lynched.

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