Racketeering claims tossed in BP oil spill suit

This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010.
AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard

ATLANTA - A federal judge on Friday threw out racketeering claims by the lead plaintiffs suing BP over last year's oil spill, and he gave the company another win by setting aside claims filed by one of BP's partners in the well project that resulted in the disaster.

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Gulf residents and businesses alleged that BP defrauded regulators in connection with the safety of its drilling operations, its ability to respond to any oil spill, and its response to the actual spill. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO law, was originally enacted to combat the Mafia.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans dismissed the claims, saying there is no proof the plaintiffs were directly harmed by the alleged racketeering. The decision does not affect other damage claims still pending against BP and others from the same plaintiffs. A trial is scheduled for February to determine whether Transocean can limit what it pays claimants under maritime law and to assign percentages of fault to Transocean and other companies involved in the disaster.

(In 2010, CBS' "60 Minutes" broadcast a survivor's account of the events leading up to the oil rig explosion that caused the massive spill and an interview with the administrator of the oil spill victims fund.)

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Also Friday, Barbier set aside a lawsuit filed against BP by one of its partners on the ill-fated well. He stayed Anadarko's claims because its contract with BP required arbitration of such disputes, rather than litigation. BP was the majority owner of the well that blew out. Anadarko owned a minority stake. Transocean owned the rig that BP was leasing to drill its Macondo well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Eleven workers were killed when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20, 2010, leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.