TEXAS CITY — BP was negligent in a 40-day emissions event at its Texas City refinery in 2010, but no one was harmed by the event, a Galveston County jury found.

All the jurors agreed that BP caused the event, but all but one decided not to award damages because they found that there was not enough evidence to support illness claims.

More than 45,000 people sued BP over the flaring event that happened in April and May three years ago. BP reported that more than 500,000 pounds of chemicals were released.

This trial, which started on Sept. 11, featured three of those 45,000-plus plaintiffs and was set to be a test trial that would set the benchmark for all the other cases.

The case was argued in Judge Lonnie Cox’s 56 District Court in Galveston.

“Today’s verdict affirms BP’s view that no one suffered any injury as a result of the flaring of the BP ultracracker flare during April and May 2010,” BP spokesman Scott Dean said.

“Armed with the knowledge gleaned from this case and this important jury verdict, the company will immediately begin to prepare for any additional proceedings involving other plaintiffs.”

Buzbee surprised

The verdict surprised the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, but he vowed to fight some more.

“I’m surprised,” he said. “But I respect the juries. This was only the first one. We learned some things.

“We will gear up and try another in a couple of months.”

Buzbee said after his staff met with jurors, he is convinced “BP dodged a large bullet.”

Mary Knight, one of the three plaintiffs in the trial, arrived about an hour after the verdict was read.

“There’s nothing really to say,” she said as she left the courthouse.

From 6 to 3 plaintiffs

When the trial started there were four plaintiffs, Knight, Jerald Ford, Hugo Arieta and Libby Soriano. Arieta was removed from the case just before the jury began its deliberations.

There were actually six plaintiffs at one point. When setting up the test trial, Cox ordered each side to pick 100 plaintiffs. From that pool of 200, six would be picked for trial, with three coming from each side’s pool.

BP picked 100 plaintiffs, likely those that the company’s legal team thought were the weakest claims. Meanwhile, Buzbee picked 100 that represented what he considered to be the strongest cases.

Two plaintiffs dropped their cases before the trial began.

Panel not unanimous in monetary damages

Juror Bob Pierce, 67, of Galveston said that while the jury believed BP was negligent in allowing the flaring event to happen, there was no direct cause of illness among the plaintiffs.

“These people were already sick,” he said. “They were treated for other illnesses and not from the (event).”

Pierce, who is the police chief for the Port of Galveston Police Department, said aside from the unanimous decision on the finding of negligence, the panel was not unanimous on the other decisions. That included awarding monetary damages.

BP’s experts more believable

For juror Mindy Greenleaf, 57, of League City, BP’s experts proved to be more believable. The part-time school district office worker said she believed those experts when they said the levels of chemicals in the air were not concentrations that would cause harm.

‘We had no idea’

For Stephanie Beall, 47, a Galveston pharmacist, the case proved to be a crash course in toxicology, flare efficiency and air monitors.

She said she was shocked when told how many people had sued BP.

“We didn’t know that until about 30 minutes ago,” she said. “We had no idea we were determining the outcome of so many cases.”

All that information and expert testimony, she said, convinced her that no one could have been harmed by the release.

Lack of communication

While finding the emissions event didn’t make anyone ill, BP didn’t totally get off. The jury was unanimous in its ruling that the company was negligent.

Pierce said the fact BP kept the refinery going when a subunit malfunctioned was key to the negligence decision.

“That’s what created the whole event,” he said. “None of this would have happened if (the company) had not done that.”

Beall and Greenleaf said BP’s lack of communication to the city and public as to the extent of the flaring was another key reason the jury found BP negligent.

BP: We could’ve handled situation better

BP has since sold the refinery to Marathon Petroleum, which took over operations in February. BP does have a small chemical plant in the city.

Privately, BP officials admitted the trial showed BP could have handled the situation better and that in hindsight, shutting down the refinery while repairs were made would have been a better course. BP also promised city officials to better communicate such situations.

Texas City Emergency Management Coordinator Bruce Clawson testified during the trial that had he known what was going on, he would have pleaded with BP officials to stop. If that didn’t work, he said he would have gone public to expose the emissions event in hopes BP would shut down the refinery and stop flaring.

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(31) comments

Gary Miller

Oops!
Buzbee gets nothing.
Too bad we don't have 'Looser Pays" tort reform.
Without it taxpayers must pay for this frivilous suit.

Clo Orfice

Loser pays would have covered BP's attorneys fees and costs. How does taxpayer pay?

"Frivolous?" - jury found BP negligent.

Scott Toth

Frivolous! - plaintiffs suffered no damages

sharon maxey

Now BP & plants are free to poison us all and get away with it.
Texas City walking dead future town of zombies!
Warning move out now!

Judy Henry

BYE BYE, don't let the door...

Carlos Ponce

I grew up in Texas City near the corner of Second Avenue North and Bay Street just a few blocks away from the plants during the '50s and '60's. My Grandparents lived on Texas Ave. I also continued working summers during my college years for a TC lumber yard that made deliveries to the various TC petrochemical plants until I graduated from college in 1977. No harm done to me and my friends in those pre-EPA days. The chemical plants were much smellier then with many, many more emissions. Friends who died an early death had a problem with cigarettes, drinking or drugs. And some of my friends also used to ride bicycles through the DDT fog spray for mosquitoes as well! They still live! My condolences to those who actually died from exposure to dangerous chemicals and their families but this looks like much ado about nothing from ambulance chaser Buzbee.

Dorothy Holt

EPA was in 1972 thanks to Richard Nixon.

Dorothy Holt

Adios, Shay. You must have been one of the 42000+. Maybe next time.

Paul Hyatt

Bravo for BP and I am glad that the lawyers LOST....[[beam]

Andy Aycoth

My faith in the legal system is being restored . Buzz, give it up !

Don Ciaccio

Now let that bad karma begin for those 45,000 "sick" bottom feeders looking for free money. It's a great day for the justice system. Tony Buzbee ruins good attorneys reputations with his ridiculous class action suits. He's a disgrace to his profession.

Will Dodson

No one harmed? I have lost two friends already fromd this. We lived right across the street to one block away from the property. One from brain cancer the other from lung and liver cancer. It may not be tomorrow but the funeral industry may replace the refineries as the main economic engine of Texas City.

kevjlang
Kevin Lang

I think it takes quite a bit more than a couple of years from benzene exposure to a cancer fatality. Not saying that I doubt your friends could have got cancer from BP emissions, just saying that I think it would taken longer for the cancer to develop to the point where it became deadly. I wonder if maybe this incident exposed the damage that cancer from other exposures years back had caused.

Judy Henry

Mr. Buzbee has to regroup, in an effort to recoup the money he put up to file this lawsuit behalf of 48k deadbeats. No billable hours has to be quite upsetting to his contraband cigars, yacht & exotic car collection.

JBG JBG

Mr. Buzbee is quoted as saying:
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"I'm surprised," he said. "But I respect the juries. This was only the first one. 'We learned some things." "We will gear up and try another in a couple of months."
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No sir,...don't try again. Go on and do something worthwhile. Do that which is right and honest!
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Proverbs 11:1:
"God hates cheating in the marketplace;
He loves it when business is aboveboard."
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People, lets get real with this thing. Now I have not said a whole lot about this,...but I think everybody knows, what that jury came back with is the gospel truth, and righteous! Yea BP messed up, and it was not the first time! However,...I have a problem believing that all those thousands of individuals were harmed by those emissions.
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Some of these people listed on these lawsuits, did not even live in Galveston County when the emissions happened! I KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! I know more than that, but I'm just watching and laughing!
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Some of them have been producing HOT CHIN MUSIC all over the place about how much of a settlement they were going to get,and what they were going to buy,...but NOW......well now, I guess they will have to re-assess their cash flow! Ahhhhhhhhhahahahah! Ahhhhhhhhahahahah. Whooooooeeeeeeeee!
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Money will sprint away from you if you have a WRONG relationship with it! If things gets to EVIL,...YOU will be separated from your money! You know what that means, if not,......just keep reading below:
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Luke 12:16-21 ( The Saga Of The Rich Fool ).
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16) " Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18) "So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19) "And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20) "But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; ( YOU WILL DIE )....then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
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21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
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So, there it is,...RIGHT "THERE!" Like it or leave it......lump it or jump it,....it is what it is! Money to me is on the same level as my lawn mower,...it is a tool bought into my presence to help me fulfill my calling here. I didn't have it when I came IN this world,...and I'm TOLD by a very reliable SOURCE,.... I won't be TAKING it out when I leave this world! So why get excited about it! I'm just saying......
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( I TIM. 6:7 ) .."For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it"
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I'm not completely condemning anybody, because what I'm talking about requires building up the heart's ability to circumvent or tear down, the decision making control of the flesh/SOUL over an individual!
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It is a personal choice, to fulfill or not to fulfill this spiritual command from Jesus Christ Himself!
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Romans 12:1-2 I Peter 2:2 II Peter 3:18.

George Croix

[beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam]

That's one small step for honest people, one giant middle finger to liars and cheats and their mouthpieces.
I am 'negligent' if I accidentally spray you with my water hose. You are not hurt by it.
Negligent is not a synonym for harm.
The shyster vows to fight on, saying that this jury will be replaced by another.
One can only hope that that one/those to come, are equally free of heads stuck up behinds as this one was.
For now it's certainly good to see a Galveston County Jury weigh the evidence, and then use it to render a verdict.
Let's see...did I remember to
[beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam]

Miles Montegut

The refineries had no flares FOR DECADES and no one had all these "symptoms". And why didnt people IN the refinery get sick? Yes some people have cancer, because cancer exists.
After the 05 explosion they installed flares, which burns the emissions to a legal, permitable level. THAT'S WHY BP ISN'T PAYING!

JBG JBG

Mr. Gecroix, I'm disappointed in you. Why don't you let us know how REALLY happy you are! [beam]

Trey Bush

I know some are over joyed by the juries decision, but for three weeks I was in and out of the doctors office trying to determine what was wrong because I am never sick. Four months later BP owned up to releasing toxins in the air. Yeah, yeah, yeah people lied but some people were truly affected by this benzene crap they released. Every ones physiology is not the same. I will re-file. Justice was not served. To all the people who were truly affected by the release and have documentation do not give up.

Dorothy Holt

You will file again and lose again. Perhaps you had a virus or maybe a cold that was causing your problems.

Jim Forsythe

Romeo08
I wonder what all the big pipes 100’s feet tall with fire on top were when I went to work for Amoco in 1975 . You may be thinking of the new flares that were installed in the last few years including ground flares. Flares have always been part of plants.
Amoco, BP ect have flares as a safety devices and other reasons.

Jimi Luv

Honest folks - 1

Phony Buzbee - 0

[beam]

Andy Aycoth

You don't like it move to League City!

Jose' Boix

A common sense end to an unbelievable lawsuit.

Bennett04

@jbgood Bible quoting and laughing at all plaintiffs? You have no clue nor do others blasting the plaintiffs. Granted, there probably are many that had no injury...just file. Well, sort through those with no evidence but there are many with proof. Thousands sick at the same time during April and May? Allergies? The only allergies were people's bodies rejecting poison. Bp let a bomb off in Texas city, the real serious effects just haven't presented themselves in a manner that shows it's impact. I have a suggestion for all of those saying no harm. How about you breath air contaminated with the same amounts of toxins registered by bp's own admission or take drink of water with those toxins present. I bet you wouldn't dare.

George Croix

Actually, you lose your bet.
I 'breathed air' with several hundred times, if not thousands, more concentrated 'toxins' (great word for lawyers - WATER is a 'toxin' in some cases...) in a nearly 40 year career, with ZERO ill effects. I worked on the unit that had the flaring many times, as well as ALL of the other hydrogen using units (they pretty much all have benzene somewhere in the process) and was an emergency responder always in the front of things, long BEFORE SCBA was a common thing, precisely when 'normal' wasn't normal for a while on those units. I worked on units in the shadow of flares. Many flares.
"Let off a bomb in Texas City".
Well, about 45 thousand sure did. A 'bomb' of hyperbole and ignorance, mixed with greed and dishonesty.
More powerful than Fat Man or Little Boy...

JBG JBG

Since Mr. gecroix has done such a masterful job of rebuttal on the accusation of exposure to the same atmosphere, as those filing claims, I won't duplicate excellence! I will just say let my 35 years, hook up with his 40 years in the same business, and in the same areas, and atmospheres, speak for itself!
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A little more advice,...if it were me and I thought I had a legitimate claim, I think I would find a reputable, reliable attorney, who I could depend on to go after justice. If you mix in with the bad, then YOU become the bad. Poor people are saddled with the same problem for being INFILTRATED by a bunch of con men, derelicts, lazy, good for nothings who are out there MASQUERADING as the poor,...collecting free food stamps,...and other services set up for the poor.
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Like it or not, I know people who do not live anywhere near that plant, trying to collect money, and I know people who know others I don't know! I'm sorry if your feelings are hurt, but it is what it is. Now having said what I said, IF you are truly injured, from what happened,...I wish you well. One thing to remember, nobody has to worry about deceiving Mr. gecroix or Mr. JBG,....the one who you can never deceive is the one who forever watches,...and is recording the good and the bad behaviors of us all to be reconciled later, when you take that last breath on this side of eternity! ( II Corinthians 5:10.)
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10) "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
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Naw,..deceiving me or any other man don't get you a thing,...everything is duly recorded. ( see scripture above.)

Bennett04

I suppose you know all too well ldl50. Why does it only happen to 50% and not all?

George Croix

I'm about done with this subject, but will echo Jbgood's sentiments that people truly, demonstrably harmed by any event by any business or company deserve to be made whole financially. But I'll add to that, made whole does not mean made rich where no such thing is callled for, and no proof of harm can even be provided.
Imagine if someone sued YOU, saying they had fallen in your yard after tripping over your water hose, but could show no proof of harm, yet wanted to rob your wallet just because they might be able to.
Do unto others...
Look, I was priveleged to work with a really great, professional quality bunch of first responders in that refinery for a long, long time. Nobody asked us to head towards problems when most were heading the other way. It was something done out of concern for our families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, an effort to mitigate and minimize whatever was happening.
I saw the good and the bad, and the worst.
The worst were (and are) the phonies who took (and take) advantage of a situation for personal gain.
Example: I got 3 cold Diet Cokes after some 4 hrs up inside the Isom unit while it was still on fire, and an ex-neighbor of mine got 250,000 bucks for 'mental anguish'. even though he worked at a neighboring facility, but was off work that day.
THAT is what hardens some of us to claims of 'harm'. We KNOW it's BS, because we saw it ourselves.
I refuse to take a dime in profit off the misery of others, and have ZERO respect for anyone who would or did or, for that matter, tries to.
But, that's just me.
Amoco Oil/BP deserved some of the bad press they got, but I'll say a majority of it they did not. MANY of the injuries and deaths were caused BY the injured or deceased not following the safety practices they were taught. That is based on eyeball witnessed fact, often as a member of the investigation team, too, not barbershop or grocery store gossip, or shyster client shopping inuendo. The ones who WERE wronged, including some close friends and associates of mine, I grieve for, but recognize it's a more dangerous job than selling tennis shoes or insurance.
Greed makes weak willed people believe what other's tell them to believe.
Show some strength of character, and resist consorting with people worshipping at the alter of the almighty dollar.

Bennett04

Everyone who worked with benzene, vinyl chloride, or asbestos didn't fall ill to it. Everyone has different tolerance to all things. I agree that there are probably some with false claims.

Let's not forget how man times bp's monitors failed to pick up emissions but were later fined for exceeding the reported limits. For example, November 2011 Dow Chemical picked up Sulfur Dioxide where Bp did not. Only after Dow notified them of their finding did bp acknowledge it. Even after, they continued to play down the concentrations and toxicity of the release. Samuel Boyd, a competent healthy young man, is on disability because of this event. A harmless odorant was all they, bp, claimed. Many were Ill during the 2010 event not knowing why(no previous history of allergies, especially in April/may) and many during 2011 event. I don't like the armchair lawyers and or doctors accusing everyone of being a con. Many are still effected by these releases. Yes, working in this industry has risk but I wouldn't have gone to work in a site which blatantly puts profits over safety, lies about what it is releasing, and calls EVERYONE a liar who claims to be harmed from their decisions to operate as they have. I would rather be healthy than "rich" any day. Money does no good for you when you aren't healthy enough to enjoy it or you are
dead.

Jim Forsythe

Bennett04 when someone go's to court with 45,000 others it's all win or all lose. If you win layers get a lot of it.
If you would rather be healthy than rich please do not work at plants.
Maybe think of moving some place safe and when you find that place let me know.
Also make sure you read all MSDS for all products you use. You may find what is at your house may be very bad for you.
As far as Your dare I have in the past.

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