U.S. News

BP tells court it waives cap on spill liability

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) - BP Plc told a court it was committed to waiving the legal cap on its liability from the Gulf oil spill, which could have limited the cost to the oil giant to $75 million plus clean-up costs.

A British Petroleum (BP) logo is seen at a petrol station in south London April 27, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

“BP has chosen to waive the statutory limitation on liability under OPA,” BP said in a court filing on Monday. OPA is the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

BP has already paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to fisherman, retailers, charter boat captains and property owners who suffered from the spill, the largest in U.S. history.

The company has publicly committed to pay clean-up costs and all “legitimate claims,” rather than applying the cap.

Under pressure from the Obama administration, the company also has established a $20 billion compensation fund, but a slew of lawsuits also have been brought against the company and its business partners.

At a court hearing on the lawsuits on Friday, BP created confusion about its stance on the liability cap. It did not commit to waiving the cap at the hearing, as many plaintiffs’ attorneys had expected, and said in a statement on Friday that the cap “is not relevant.”

“BP lawyers wouldn’t say on the record they would waive the cap,” said Steve Herman, a Louisiana attorney who is leading the hundreds of lawsuits against BP and its partners. “It certainly took everyone by surprise.”

In Monday’s court filing, BP said it would waive the liability cap. BP also urged other defendants in the case, including rig owner Transocean Holdings LLC, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, also to waive the liability cap, according to the filing.

BP also said it reserved the right to seek reimbursement from the other defendants and denied engaging in grossly negligent conduct, which would open the door to potentially huge punitive damages.

The case in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, 2010, No. 10-MDL-2179.

Reporting by Tom Hals, editing by Dave Zimmerman