BP will settle 25,000 lawsuits over toxic Texas refinery

Click to enlargeAP/MSNBC

BP is poised to settle a mass tort lawsuit with more than 25,000 people who were exposed to toxic emissions from its southeast Texas refinery.

A common sight in Texas, flares intermittently crown refineries and chemical plants like huge Olympic torches.

Flares are as a last-resort pollution-control measure. They burn off excess gases that can’t be recycled. They are also deployed during power outages or when plants are shut down for maintenance.

The BP litigation arose from a faulty flare at its Texas City refinery…

More than 40,000 residents of Texas City and neighboring La Marque sued BP, claiming that over 40 days in April and May 2010 the company released more than 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including carcinogenic benzene, after diverting the compounds to the flare that was only 33 to 66 percent efficient…

Due to the volume of cases, they were funneled to Galveston County Judge Lonnie Cox by the Texas multidistrict litigation panel, to streamline pretrial proceedings, which is regularly done for asbestos cases…

Cox dismissed about 20,000 claimants from the case Monday, granting a motion for summary judgment in which BP claimed the litigants had no evidence of damages caused by the toxins.

Anthony Buzbee represents dozens of the more than 25,000 remaining plaintiffs…“These were mostly people who didn’t respond to repeated requests for information. That is common in a mass tort with this many plaintiffs,” Buzbee said…about the dismissed cases…

Buzbee, a high-profile Houston attorney, is very familiar with BP, having represented litigants who sued the company over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP attorney James Galbraith declined comment and the company has not publicized the amount of the impending settlement.

Texas City refining has a long and dangerous history, disasters have claimed anywhere from dozens to hundreds of lives each time. While the Oil Patch Boys lead the world in whining about over-regulation, this history makes clear that the lives of workers in these facilities means next to nothing to the owners – or state officials who bear much of the responsibility for death and destruction. Whether it was eventful and grabbed headlines – or destroyed the lives of thousands of families over decades.

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