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Medical Suits Over BP Oil Spill Deserve Jury Trials, Judge Rules

BP could face more trials in the 2010 Gulf oil spill after a judge ruled that workers who develop medical problems late in life deserve jury trials.
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/ Source: NBC News

Petroleum giant BP could face hundreds of more trials in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after a federal judge ruled that cleanup workers who develop serious medical problems after a 2012 court settlement are entitled to jury trials.

The 2012 settlement left the door open for plaintiffs in the settlement who develop major illnesses later in life to file separate suits against BP. The company had argued that such so-called back-end litigation cases had to be decided by a judge, but in a ruling dated Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said BP was wrong. Such patients, he wrote, deserve to have their complaints heard by juries, which are generally considered to be more favorable to people suing corporations.

In a one-sentence statement Tuesday, BP said it "disagrees with the Court's ruling and is considering its options."

The explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 caused around 200 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. In September, Barbier found BP "grossly negligent" for its role in the spill, a ruling that could add billions of dollars in fines to the more than $42 billion taken so far for the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history. The U.S. Supreme Court in December rejected BP's challenge to the settlement agreement.