BP’s Victims Get Day in Court, Perhaps

When the BP/Gulf oil spill case goes to trial in open court later this month, if it ever does, billions of dollars will be at stake, and not just for BP. The rig operator, Transocean, and the rig construction contractor, Halliburton, are also at significant financial risk. And signs don’t look good for them.

Several government probes have castigated BP, rig operator Transocean andĀ HalliburtonĀ – which was responsible for the runaway well’s faulty cement job – for cutting corners and missing warning signs that could have prevented the disaster. – Economic Times, 2/15/12

Here are some uncertainties:

  • What portion of responsibility goes to which firm? Obviously, BP owned the facility, but key functions were performed by consultants, contractors and partners.
  • How will the court assess future potential losses which have yet to be specifically claimed? Effects on fisheries, for example, might take years or generations to present themselves.
  • Will this case ever get to actual trial and, if so, will it ever come to a decision? Many observers contend it won’t; they believe a settlement will be reached well before the public gets a full and public accounting of the worst oil disaster in US history.

Transocean and Halliburton have little contact with the general public, but BP has actual customers. Therefore, it has much more at stake from a public relations standpoint in these proceedings; and it has already proven itself less than able in that realm.

Whatever the case, many stakeholders are waiting for their day in court.