By Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press Writer | October 9, 2006
GALVESTON, Texas --A lawyer representing more than 100 plaintiffs who sued BP PLC over a deadly refinery explosion in Texas City said Monday he expects all his cases to be settled within 10 days.
The settlements would mean BP Chief Executive John Browne would not have to give a deposition in the 52 federal cases against the company. But a state district judge has yet to decide whether Browne would be deposed in her court.
Last week a judge ordered Browne's deposition in the federal lawsuits stemming from the March 2005 blast that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the 52 federal cases as well as 59 more pending in state court, said three other cases were settled Monday and that he expects the rest to be finalized in 10 days.
Buzbee and BP said the terms of the proposed settlements were confidential.
Kenneth Tekell, BP's attorney, said the company has settled 950 lawsuits. BP spokesman Neil Chapman did not immediately know how many lawsuits against the company are still pending.
State District Judge Susan Criss in Galveston heard arguments Monday about whether Browne should give a deposition in the state court lawsuit filed by Eva Rowe, whose parents, James and Linda Rowe, were killed in the blast. The Rowe couple, of Hornbeck, La., were working inside trailers that were leveled by the explosion.
Eva Rowe has refused to settle. Her case is scheduled for trial next month.
Criss was set to hear additional arguments Wednesday before deciding whether Browne can be deposed.
The Texas City blast occurred when faulty sensors did not warn of gathering vapors near the isomerization unit, which boosts the level of octane in gasoline. The vapors ignited as the unit was starting up.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, one of several agencies investigating the blast, concluded the unit had a history of problems and lacked equipment that could have prevented or minimized the accident.
The report also found that BP fostered bad management at the plant, about 40 miles southeast of Houston, and failed to fix problems.