[JURIST] Oil company British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] was sued Tuesday in a $10 billion class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] over a toxic chemical leak that lasted for 40 days at its refinery in Texas City, TX. The complaint was filed by Texas attorney Anthony Buzbee [firm website] in the United States District Court in the Southern District of Texas [official website] on behalf of more than 2,000 plaintiffs made up of refinery employees and local residents. The suit alleges that BP knowingly allowed over 500,000 pounds of toxic gases, including 17,000 pounds of benzene [CDC fact sheet], a carcinogen, to escape from a malfunctioning hydrogen compressor from April 6, 2010 until it was repaired on May 16, 2010 and did not notify Texas City officials of the leak until it was repaired. In addition to the leak, the suit cites 13 incidents from 2002-2009 at the refinery where toxic gases were released into the environment as well as several fires and explosions that killed more than 20 workers and injured more than 1,000 people. The document criticizes BP's safety record and recalls recent investigations and incidents across the country, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. The plaintiffs are suing the oil company for negligence and private nuisance as well as assault and battery, alleging that BP's conduct was committed purposefully or with the knowledge that the plaintiffs would be harmed by the company's actions. The plaintiffs are also seeking an injunction to prevent BP from destroying or altering any evidence that they possess regarding the leak.
Last month, Louisiana residents filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against BP in a Louisiana state court alleging that the company's negligent actions led to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and that it was negligent in its handling of the cleanup. In June, two lawsuits [JURIST report] were filed against the oil company alleging that BP committed a series of criminal acts to deceive the public regarding its ability to safely drill for oil and contain oil in the event of a spill and that the company engaged in fraudulent business practices related to its claims payment process. Also in June, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the Department of Justice [official website] would investigate whether BP violated any civil or criminal statutes [JURIST report], resulting in the oil spill.