Published: November 16, 2012
By: Frederick B. Goldsmith
The Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible drilling rig was owned and operated by Transocean and drilling for British Petroleum in the Macondo Prospect (situated in Mississippi Canyon Block 252), about 50 miles offshore Louisiana on April 20, 2010. When the rig exploded, 11 men were killed, 17 were injured, 99 survived. The Deepwater Horizon burned and eventually sank. The loss of well control resulted in a multi-day massive oil spill which affected the Gulf of Mexico, the coastlines and economies of several states, and significantly damaged numerous natural resources, both flora and fauna.
In general, I believe when a corporation is allowed to plead guilty and pay a fine, it is unlikely that it will change the corporation’s conduct. This mindset seems to inform the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent indictment of individual BP employees. It seems only a matter of human nature that one is more likely to pay closer attention to one’s actions when the individual faces time behind bars. Do I think these individuals should have been indicted? Do I think they’re guilty? I do not know the facts of the case well enough to articulately comment. And, in my experience, there is no substitute for sitting through an entire trial and hearing all the testimony, watching the demeanor of all the witnesses, and seeing all the trial exhibits, before forming an opinion about any civil or criminal case.
Thus, even though I, like most of us, may reach tentative conclusions in my mind when hearing of an event, or reading in the newspaper a reporter’s account of the day’s testimony in a civil or criminal case, there is simply no substitute for being in the courtroom and listening and watching for oneself. In this spirit, here are links to the…