The movie “Deepwater Horizon” depicts the blowout and explosions that killed 11 men and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history in April 2010. Fast-paced and scary, the film focuses on the decisions that caused the catastrophe and the heroics that followed. But it begins with the recorded voices of lawyers and witnesses played over a black screen and ends with video of protagonist Mike Williams testifying before a joint panel of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard. These brief moments nod to the enormous legal aftermath of the tragedy.
In Houston, I was part of the legal team that represented the drilling contractor in the investigations and litigation that followed the loss of the Deepwater Horizon. By my count, what happened on the rig was litigated at least five times— once in regulatory hearings; once before the President’s Oil Spill Commission; once in the assessment and criticism of the investigative reports made by BP and one of its contractors; once in the prosecutions of BP employees; and finally in multidistrict litigation before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in the Eastern District of Louisiana. And this list is simplified, omitting the inundation of requests and demands from the media, the states, the Congress, the shareholders, the employees, and other regulators.
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