A federal court judge found BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) grossly negligent in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which is considered the largest in the history of the United States.

BP

The decision of the court would likely increase the penalty that will be imposed against the British energy company. BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) could face as much $18 billion in penalty. The company stated in its recent earnings statement that it wrote down a $43 billion charge to cover all the costs related to the oil spill. It allocated $3.5 billion to cover penalties.

In 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) on allegations of gross negligence or willful misconduct during the disastrous oil spill that killed 11 people. The agency also accused Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG), the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig of gross negligence. Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) was also part of the case.

“BP’s conduct was reckless”

In his ruling, United States Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District Court of Louisiana wrote, “BP’s conduct was reckless. Transocean’s conduct was negligent. Halliburton’s conduct was negligent.” According to the judge, BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) was 67% responsible for the disaster while 30% for Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG) and 3% for Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL).

Judge Barbier emphasized that BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) is “subject to enhanced penalties under the Clean Water Act,” citing the reason that the oil spill was cause by the gross negligence and willful misconduct of its exploration unit.

BP plc to challenge the court decision

BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) strongly disagreed with the decision of the court. The company plans to challenge it before the United States Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

“BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial. The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case,” according to the company in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg.