Texas Jury Declines to Award Damages in $10B Toxic Flaring Case
In the first test case in a series of actions involving about 48,000 plaintiffs, a Texas jury declined to award damages in an action against Defendant BP Products North America’s Texas City Refinery, despite finding that the refinery had negligently flared approximately 500,000 pounds of noxious chemicals. See In re: MDL Litig. regarding Texas City Refinery Ultracracker Emission, No. 10-UC-0001 (56th Jud. Dist. Tex. Oct. 10, 2013)
Plaintiffs brought property damage and personal injury claims, alleging that BP surreptitiously vented 19 different toxic chemicals during an extended emission period from April to May 2010. Although BP later disclosed to state and federal regulators that it flared the chemicals, Plaintiffs claimed that BP understated the significance of the event. Plaintiffs sought $200,000 each plus $10 billion in punitive damages to be donated to charity for property damage. The jury found that BP had flared chemicals, but declined to award damages.
The jury’s verdict comes a little more than a week after BP defeated class certification in a federal lawsuit over air pollution related to the same refinery. See Cannon v. BP Products N. Am. Inc., No. 10-00622 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2013), available at www.bdlaw.com/assets/attachmnets/cannonvBP.pdf. In that case, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that the damages model prepared by the plaintiffs’ expert did not adequately tie air pollution from BP’s refinery to alleged diminution to the plaintiffs’ home values. Id.at 15-34. Since plaintiffs presented no alternative to prove causation or damages, the court could “not envision how a class action trial would operate.” Id. at 37.