By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2006
BP PLC agreed yesterday to pay at least $32 million and as much as $38 million to schools, hospitals and worker training programs, plus an undisclosed amount in compensation, to settle a lawsuit with Eva Rowe, whose parents were killed in a March 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City, Tex., oil refinery.
The deal settles the last claim associated with the 15 people killed in the explosion, but BP still faces at least 100 other claims, more than half related to alleged injuries and the rest stemming from property damage. BP has already set aside $1.6 billion to settle claims related to the Texas City explosion, and it would not say whether the undisclosed payment to Rowe was in line with that provision.
"I'm generally satisfied with the way things have turned out," Rowe, 22, said in a conference call arranged by her lawyer, Brent Coon. But she said, "I'll probably never say BP is a good company. They killed my parents because they wanted to save money."
The settlement saves BP from a potentially embarrassing trial, for which jurors were being chosen. Coon said that he had obtained 7 million documents since the accident and that he would have shown the company to be at fault for the accident and callous in its aftermath.
One e-mail, he said, from BP executive John Manzoni complained about having to go to Texas City "at the cost of a precious day of my leave." Manzoni was vacationing in Colorado at the time of the accident.
Coon has four other cases associated with injuries from the blast; they are set for trial in February. He is attempting to have BP chief executive John Browne deposed, and a Texas judge ordered Browne to comply. BP has fought the request, and the matter has gone to an appeals court.
As part of the settlement, Rowe chose the recipients of BP's payments; she said she chose them to honor her parents and others who died at the refinery. BP will donate $12.5 million to the adult burn unit of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; $12.5 million to a process safety center at Texas A&M University; $5 million to the College of the Mainland in Texas City for safety and training of refinery and chemical plant workers; $1 million to the cancer center at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis; and $1 million for Hornbeck, La., schools, which Rowe attended and where her mother taught before working for BP.
BP will also make up to $6 million in matching donations to the programs at Texas A&M, the College of the Mainland and the University of Texas Medical Branch.
BP said in a statement: "We are very sorry for Miss Rowe's loss and deeply regret the harm caused by our mistakes. We are pleased to have reached this agreement and are working to prevent accidents like this in the future."