Petrol offer inflames BP claimant

Good news for BP’s lawyers this week with the news that a Texas judge found their attempts to settle a case through inducements to the other side merely unusual, and not unethical.

The oil giant is currently embroiled in a massive class action case after a refinery explosion in Texas City, which killed 15 workers. It has set aside $1bn (£530m) to deal with the claims – some of which have settled prior to trial later this month.

But the company’s in-house legal department in Chicago and its outside counsel, Kenneth Tekell of Houston firm Tekell Book Matthews & Limmer, came up with a plan to settle the rest of the case. They offered $10m (£5.3m) to a lawyer representing the victims, to be payable to a charitable cause on settlement. The lawyer refused and his clients promptly launched a motion alleging that the offer was unethical.

However, Judge Susan Criss declined to hear the motion, ruling that “it was outside the box, but I don’t think it was unethical”. An encouraging decision for other large US corporations faced with crippling lawsuits.