The trial in the BP oil spill case began on Monday morning in New Orleans in front of a federal judge and without a jury, according to Reuters.
“This is a game of corporate chicken,” said John Zavitsanos, a Houston civil litigator. “We have tangled with BP often, and they blink.”
The case is being presided over by Judge Carl Barbier. BP is being joined in the courtroom by the owner of the rig that exploded, Transocean Ltd and cement services provider Halliburton Co.
The plaintiffs in the case are the Justice Department, Gulf Coast states, and other plaintiffs.
The explosion and spill, which took place on April 20, 2010, affected the coastlines of five states. It created a six-month ban on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and it halted the livelihoods of hoteliers, fishermen, and many more.
BP has already spent some $37 billion for cleanup, payouts, settlements, payouts and fines related to the spill. Of that money, $8.5 billion went to plaintiffs and a record of $4.5 billion penalties. They also pled guilty to 14 criminal counts that resolved criminal charges from the Justice Department and civil claims from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
BP has also had to sell $38 billion in assets to help pay for spill costs. It even sold its smaller Gulf of Mexico operations. If it is proven that BP was grossly negligent in the explosion and spill, the company could wind up paying tens of billions dollars more in the case.