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14

Legal Echo Of BP’s Refinery Explosion

Several plaintiffs suing BP over injuries they say resulted from the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion didn't go to doctors for 18 months after the blast and then only did so at the urging of their lawyers, attorneys for BP told jurors Wednesday

Several plaintiffs suing BP over injuries they say resulted from the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion didn't go to doctors for 18 months after the blast and then only did so at the urging of their lawyers, attorneys for BP told jurors Wednesday.

BP attorney Otway Denny introduced the oil giant's case by saying the company accepted responsibility for the blast and always has.

The disaster that killed 15 and injured scores more could have been avoided if workers had followed procedures, he said.

Company lawyers Kenneth Tekell and Ronnie Krist noted patterns where some plaintiffs were not diagnosed or did not complain of any physical or psychological problems until they visited doctors recommended by their lawyers. Others had pre-existing injuries and are trying to get BP to pay them for old aches and pains, the lawyers said.

They also pointed out that several of the plaintiffs have seen their salaries increase since the explosion, which they said calls into question whether their earning potential has suffered.

"The plaintiffs did a very good job of telling us how the accident happened," Krist said, referring to the other side's opening statements Tuesday. "Let's talk about whether any of your clients are hurt."
But before the BP legal team gets to question the plaintiffs about their injuries, plaintiffs' attorney Brent Coon will present his case. He began Wednesday by playing video of a deposition of John Manzoni, former chief of refining and marketing for BP.

Manzoni repeatedly said he was not aware of problems with equipment or the culture at Texas City that led to the blast.

In the video, Manzoni read aloud from an e-mail he sent a colleague five days after the explosion. The executive had left his family vacation in Colorado to fly back, and he complained that doing so came "at the cost of a precious day of my leave."

After Manzoni expressed his sorrow for tragedy and apologized to injured workers and families of those who died, he was asked to name some of them. He could not.

Wednesday's testimony ended with Keith Casey, the new head of BP's Texas City refinery, discussing industry standards for refinery safety. Casey did not work for BP at the time of the explosion, and many of his answers to Coon's questioning about lack of regard for safety at Texas City reflected that.

"I can't speak to any of that," he said repeatedly.

Casey said that as the new manager at the refinery last year, he entered BP's formal guilty plea to felony violations of the Clean Air Act, which carries a $50 million penalty, which some victims and survivors are challenging as too lenient for the company.