BP was found "grossly negligent" by a US judge in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The ruling could quadruple the civil penalties that BP must pay to an estimated $18 billion (£11 billion).
New Orleans judge Carl Barbier also found BP subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton "negligent". He said BP should shoulder 67 per cent of the blame for the 2010 spill, with drilling rig owner Transocean responsible for 30 per cent and cement firm Halliburton responsible for three per cent.
The judge added the company could also be liable for punitive damages from other claims, opening up the possibility that others whose interests had been damaged by the spill could yet sue.
BP said in a statement that it "strongly disagrees" with the ruling and that it would appeal to a higher court. "The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case," said the firm, adding that it planned to argue during penalty proceedings for a lesser penalty, the BBC reports.
The Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spill was the worst in US history, and BP has set aside $43 billion to cover fines, legal settlements, and clean-up costs. The blowout killed 11 workers and led to millions of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2012, BP agreed to accept criminal responsibility for the disaster and agreed to pay $4.5 billion to the US government. The company announced it had ended its 'active cleanup' on the Louisiana coast from the oil spill in April.
Shares of BP in the United States closed down 5.9 per cent yesterday (September 4th) at $44.89. BP shares in London also closed down nearly six per cent.
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