BP faces legal battle from shareholder

Chris Rizo May 12, 2010, 11:59am

Tony Hayward

NEW ORLEANS, La. (Legal Newsline)-BP Plc., already the target of dozens of lawsuits over alleged losses brought on by the company's oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, is now facing a suit from one of its own shareholders.

A shareholder lawsuit filed last week in New Orleans alleges that the explosion at an off-shore BP site and the massive spill that has ensued in the Gulf of Mexico is the fault of company executives who made safety at BP facilities a distant second to turning profits.

Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers, about 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, have flooded into gulf waters daily.

"The BP defendants have a long history of ignoring crucial safety issues related to the operation of offshore submersible rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon rig, including problems with the crucial blowout preventer devices that so spectacularly failed during this disaster," the lawsuit alleged.

Among defendants in the shareholder derivative lawsuit is London-based BP's chief executive officer, Tony Hayward. The lawsuit was filed by Katherine Firpo of Pennsylvania, who is seeking a change in BP governance in addition to monetary damages from company executives.

Also named in the shareholder lawsuit is the oil rig's owner, Transocean Ltd; Cameron International Corp., which manufactured the rig's blowout preventer that allegedly failed; and Halliburton Energy Services Inc., which cemented the oil well to prevent leaks.

Representing Firpo is the New Orleans law firm of Kahn, Swick & Foti. A partner at the firm is Charles Foti Jr., the former Democratic attorney general of Louisiana.

BP faced a similar lawsuit in 2006, which it settled out of court. Following that settlement over an explosion at BP's Texas City refinery, the company only made "purely cosmetic changes at the corporate level," the new lawsuit charges.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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