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US Deepwater Horizon explosion & oil spill lawsuits - Deaths/injuries from explosion

Deaths/injuries from explosion

Federal claims

On 21 April 2010, the wife of Shane Roshto, a Transocean employee who was killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, filed a complaint on behalf of herself, her husband and their son against Transocean, BP, Halliburton and relevant subsidiaries.  The complaint, filed in US federal court in Louisiana, alleges that the accident resulted from the negligence of the defendant companies.  All defendants are accused of failing to provide sufficient expertise, training and personnel, failure to properly follow regulations, protocols and to exercise due care and caution.  The plaintiffs allege that Halliburton’s cementing of the well was the cause of the explosion.  Alternatively, the plaintiffs argue that negligent behaviour can be presumed because of the nature of the accident although direct proof of negligence may be unavailable.  The plaintiffs claim compensation for past, present and future emotional and economic damages.  On 10 August, the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled to include this claim in the consolidated proceedings.

- “BP, Transocean Sued Over Worker Feared Dead in Blast”, Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Bloomberg, 22 Apr, 2010
- “Wife of missing oil rig worker sues BP, Transocean”, Newscore, New York Post, 22 Apr 2010
- [PDF] Complaint: Shane Roshto and Natalie Roshto v. Transocean, Ltd and BP, PLC, First amended complaint, [original complaint filed 21 Apr 2010]

State claims

On 4 May 2010, the widow of Timothy Burkeen, who was killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and three workers injured by the explosion, sued Transocean, BP, oilfield service providers Halliburton and Cameron, and relevant subsidiaries, in Galveston County Court, Texas.  Generally, maritime claims such as this in USA must be tried in federal courts, but the plaintiffs argued that an exception applies in this case so that the state court has jurisdiction.  They argued that the case could therefore be tried in Texas as several of the defendants are Texas citizens and a substantial part of the events leading up to the explosion occurred in Galveston County.

The complaint alleges that Cameron supplied inadequate and defective blow-out prevention equipment; that Halliburton failed to safely cement the well, which contributed to the explosion, and that the defendants were negligent and/or reckless in failing to provide adequate expertise, personnel and equipment, failing to conduct a proper search and rescue mission, violating various regulations, and in other ways.  The plaintiffs seek compensation for emotional and economic damages.  The complaint also seeks punitive damages because of alleged grossly negligent and reckless actions by the defendants, including disregarding the health and safety of the plaintiffs and their co-workers by subjecting them to dangerous conditions and defective equipment.  In a May2010 Galveston County Daily News article, Transocean declined to comment on the lawsuit.  Halliburton commented that the work performed was consistent with normal oil field practice and that the work had been done 20 hours before the explosion.

On 30 November 2010, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered that the case be transferred to the federal Multidistrict Litigation consolidated proceedings.  The panel was not persuaded by the plaintiffs’ arguments to remand the suit to the state court.

Settlements

According to Associated Press in November 2010, Transocean had reached long-term settlements with three of the families of the deceased and expressed that it would like to reach “amicable resolutions” with the remaining families.

In January 2011, Transocean settled a lawsuit with the family of Karl Kleppinger, a worker killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.  The settlement concludes all claims arising out of the death of Kleppinger against all existing and potential defendants.  The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

In March 2011, a widow of Keith Manuel, one of 11 crew members who died in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, settled her lawsuit against BP and other contractors. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. 

- "Widow of Deepwater Horizon Crewman Settles Lawsuit Against BP", Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Allen Johnson Jr, Bloomberg, 14 Mar 2011
- "Transocean Settles First Deepwater Horizon Death Case",  Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg, 13 Jan 2011
- “Suit: Workers kept at sea hours after explosion”, Associated Press, 4 May 2010
- “Lawsuit filed in Gulf oil rig blast”, Chris Paschenco, Galveston County Daily News, 5 May 2010
- “Third Wrongful-Death Suit Filed Over Oil Rig Explosion”, Tresa Baldas, National Law Journal, 5 May 2010
- [PDF] Complaint: Kritzer v. Transocean, BP, Halliburton, Sperry-Sun Drilling Services, Cameron International, 4 May 2010
- [PDF] US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation: In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010: Transfer order, 30 Nov 2010