he recent U.S court hearing has resulted in a BP court decision that may up the ante for any extraction industry when it comes to liability in Louisiana, not simply the oil industry itself. What this may mean for any liability cases when small business in Louisiana is impacted by these businesses may be up for grabs, but it certainly will not hurt their cases. That, at least, is how some liability lawyers in Louisiana are looking at the end result of this landmark case.
Gross Negligence is Key
At the center of the case is U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s finding that BP Oil was guilty of “gross negligence”, even before the explosion that devastated the area. With 11 workers killed and billions of barrels of oil spewed into the gulf for the next three months, the damages are bound to be huge. Adding the designation of gross negligence to the already damaging case simply means that the end penalty could become record breaking. That is bound to set precedence or two alone.
Looking at the Definition of Risk
One of the key findings to come out of this case is the way that risk may become defined. If the case ends up defining standards for how much risk is too much, it could have a big impact on what any lawyer in Louisiana will consider in a liability case that involves any extraction or dangerous practices. Jessica Owley, a SUNY Buffalo Law School environmental law expert has stated,
“Other regulated industries are also going to be looking at what are the standards that courts are going to impose on their actions.”
The amount of impact that this case has remains to be seen. But whatever the consequences, and this case is by no means over, the BP court decision we have seen so far will affect how anyone looks at liability law in Louisiana and in fact anywhere in the U.S. for decades to come. The message is certainly clear to anyone in the oil industry who is listening. At this point that probably includes everyone, plus the businesses in New Orleans who have suffered the ill effects of the catastrophe.