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Where There's Smoke: $100 Million BP Refinery Verdict Over Fumes

A federal jury in Texas has awarded $100 million dollars over fume inhalation by workers at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas. Reuters reports that the BP refinery in Texas City had a 2007 incident that left workers sick. Reuters quotes BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell as saying that the company was "shocked and outraged" over the jury's award and that BP plans to appeal. He said: "We believe the evidence showed that BP did not cause harm to anyone on April 19, 2007. The verdict, and punitive damages award in particular, is utterly unjustified, improper and unsupportable."

In the meantime, the plaintiffs' attorney Tony Buzbee said that BP's stance towards worker safety is lax. He told Reuters: "They're like an ostrich with its head in the sand. They don't understand the meaning of responsibility."

This is not the first time that BP has come under fire. After a BP refinery explosion at the same refinery, OSHA levied a hefty fine of $87 million dollars. OSHA claimed that that the OSHA fines were due to BP's failure to correct the hazards despite an explosion that occurred in 2005 at the same BP refinery in Texas City, killing 15 people. We wrote about this incident in FindLaw's Injured.

The findings of federal investigators after the BP refinery explosion showed that there were "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation." We covered this in Findlaw's Common Law.

The workers who were just awarded a $100 verdict claimed that while they were working on on repairing two of the refining units, they were exposed to toxic chemicals. They claim that BP failed to maintain the refinery and failed to warn them of the chemicals.

The workers had initially asked for $5,000 per worker, but BP reportedly refused to offer more than $500 per worker during settlement talks. It appears that the jury saw things differently than BP's negotiators.

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