Last month’s deposition of former BP chief executive Tony Hayward may have provided a preview of the battle plan plaintiffs’ attorneys intend to follow when the consolidated lawsuits against BP and others companies involved in the April 2010 drilling rig explosion and subsequent Gulf of Mexico oil spill begin in a New Orleans federal court next year. The two-day deposition of Hayward was kicked off by Alabama lawyer Robert T. Cunningham, a senior partner at Cunningham Bounds, with whom the Mobile attorneys at Long & Long are collaborating on cases related to BP’s Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program. Cunningham questioned Hayward about BP’s then-new safety program, the company’s overall safety culture, and safety expenditures. When he was called before Congress last summer in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people and poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Hayward said BP had installed a widespread new safety program known as Operating Management Systems (OMS) following a series of safety violations and other problems between 2005 and 2007. Cunningham, however, challenged Hayward’s assertions that the safety overhaul was both comprehensive and fully implemented. Cunningham and other attorneys representing the plaintiffs pointed out that OMS was being rolled out in stages and was not fully in use at Gulf-based drilling rigs. Plaintiffs’ lawyers also suggested that BP’s top officials did not promote a company-wide culture of safety, and that BP’s internal investigation into the worst oil spill in U.S. history was incomplete. Cunningham contended that BP reviewed only the immediate causes and events surrounding the blast that sparked the epic oil spill. BP’s own policies, as Cunningham pointed out, explicitly call for an examination of management and corporate safety culture following major accidents. Although Hayward denied or dodged many of the accusations regarding safety measures, the line of questioning followed by the plaintiffs’ lawyers implied that Hayward was dishonest with Congress and might suggest at least a partial plan of attack when the cases move to the courtroom in early 2012. The Hayward deposition was one of literally hundreds of depositions scheduled prior to the beginning of the consolidated lawsuits. If you were not paid for your participation in BP’s VOO program or you otherwise experienced personal injury or economic loss due to the Gulf oil spill, please contact the experienced Mobile, Alabama, oil spill attorneys at Long & Long, for a free case consultation.

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