BP could face more than £10 billion in further fines after being found guilty of gross negligence for the Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 workers and led to millions of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil firm had repeatedly expressed confidence it could avoid such a damning verdict over America’s biggest offshore oil accident but a US district judge, Carl Barbier, ruled on that BP had been reckless as well as negligent.
A spokesman said that BP ‘strongly disagrees’ with the Louisiana District Court decision issued and will immediately appeal to the United States Court of Appeals.
He added: “BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial.”
The US court has not yet ruled on the number of barrels spilled and no penalty has yet been determined. The District Court will hold additional proceedings in January 2015 to consider the application of statutory penalty factors in assessing a per-barrel Clean Water Act penalty. The statutory maximum penalty is $1,100 per barrel where the court finds simple negligence and $4,300 per barrel where the court finds gross negligence or willful misconduct.
The long-awaited decision from the New Orleans court hit the firm’s share price – which fell by 5%, wiping more than £5bn off its stock market value – despite BP promising to launch an appeal.
The oil giant has already paid out or set aside in penalties or compensation more than $43 billion as a result of the accident.