A woman who lost both parents in the explosion that killed 15 last year at BP’s Texas City plant settled her lawsuit against the company Thursday, the day jury selection was to begin, attorneys said.
Eva Rowe’s case against BP PLC would have been the first civil trial stemming from the March 2005 blast, which also injured 170. Rowe had previously refused to settle, saying her case was more about focusing attention on the accident to prevent others after the deaths of James and Linda Rowe, of Hornbeck, La.
The Rowe lawsuit was the last involving a fatality from the explosion.
BP has settled hundreds of claims and put aside $1.6 billion to resolve legal disputes related to the explosion. That was the same amount Rowe’s attorneys were seeking in damages.
Brent Coon, Eva Rowe’s attorney, said the financial terms for his client were confidential, but stressed that efforts to settle the case always included stipulations that BP make the refinery and other facilities safer.
“Money did not solve all the problems,” Coon said.
BP agreed to donations of at least $32 million to schools and medical facilities, including $1 million for the school system in Hornbeck, where Linda Rowe was a teacher’s aide. Another $12.5 million will go to the adult burn unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where many victims were sent after the blast.
“I’ll be able to help the community and do a lot of good,” Eva Rowe said.
Neil Chapman, a spokesman for the London-based oil company, said BP would not comment.
BP attorney Jim Galbraith said he was pleased with the settlement.
“We deeply want to express our sorrow for the loss that Eva Rowe has sustained,” Galbraith said. “We are working hard to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Rowe also sued former Texas City plant manager Don Parus and J.E. Merit Constructors Inc., which employed her parents. Both were released from the lawsuit in the settlement.
“This was a profound and tragic explosion,” Coon told potential jurors when the settlement was announced to them. “We hope that it never happens again.”
The explosion at the plant, located about 40 miles southeast of Houston, occurred after a piece of equipment called a blowdown drum overfilled with highly flammable liquid hydrocarbons.
The excess liquid and vapor hydrocarbons were then vented from the drum and ignited as the isomerization unit — a device that boosts the octane in gasoline — started up. Alarms and gauges that were supposed to warn of the overfilled equipment didn’t work properly.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, one of several agencies looking into the blast, has said internal BP documents show that budget cuts of 25 percent from 1998 through 2000 caused a progressive deterioration of safety at the refinery.
In its initial report in October 2005, the board concluded the isomerization unit had prior problems and was not connected to a flare system that would have burned off vapor and prevented or minimized the accident.
The report also found that BP fostered bad management at the plant. Last week, the board urged the petroleum industry and federal regulators to eliminate blowdown drums from all U.S. refineries. The final report won’t be issued until at least March.