GALVESTON, Texas (CN) – A federal jury ordered BP Products North America to pay $100 million to 10 workers who were sickened by exposure to toxic fumes in 2007 in a Texas City, Texas refinery. Each of the 10 workers was awarded $10 million in punitive damages.
It was the first trial in more than 100 claims against BP. The workers said the fumes released from the Texas City plant sent them to the hospital for treatment and decontamination.
“I told the jury that BP has a history as a serial polluter and a convicted felon, and the jury agreed they need to change,” the workers’ attorney Tony Buzbee told Business Week.
The jury also awarded the workers actual damages, ranging from roughly $6,000 to more than $244,000 apiece.
A spokesman for BP told Business Week the company was “shocked and outraged by today’s verdict. … We believe the evidence showed that BP did not cause harm to anyone in April 19, 2007.”
Buzbee, however, told the magazine that “70 percent of the time a release happens out there, they don’t find it.”
The same Texas City plant was the site of a 2005 explosion that killed 15 dead and injured hundreds. In that case, BP pleaded guilty to one violation of the Clean Air Act and agreed to pay a $50 million fine.
The company reportedly has settled more than 4,000 injury and death claims out of a $2.1 billion fund.
Friday’s verdict came from the Garner v. BP Amoco Chemical Co., 07-00221, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston).
It was the 17th largest jury award in the country this year, according to Bloomberg News Service.