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Judge clears Transocean of some damages in Deepwater Horizon spill

By Vivian Kuo, CNN
updated 9:46 PM EST, Thu January 26, 2012
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The disaster led to a huge, months-long oil spill.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The disaster led to a huge, months-long oil spill.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Federal judge says Transocean isn't liable for third parties' compensatory damages
  • Those third parties comprise the vast majority of plaintiffs
  • The Deepwater Horizon explosion caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history
  • The lawsuit will go to trial February 27 in New Orleans

(CNN) -- A federal judge in New Orleans ruled Thursday that Transocean is not liable for Deepwater Horizon compensatory damages sought by third parties in the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

There are more than 120,000 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, scheduled to go to trial on February 27 in New Orleans. Third parties comprise the vast majority of plaintiffs.

Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people.

Transocean is still potentially liable for punitive damages or civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

A spokesman for Transocean said the ruling confirms "that BP is responsible for all economic damages caused by the oil that leaked from its Macondo well, and discredits BP's ongoing attempts to evade both its contractual and financial obligations.

"Transocean is pleased to see its position affirmed, consistent with the law and the long-established model for allocating risks in the offshore-oil and gas industry," spokesman Lou Colasuonno said.

BP, the oil company that contracted the rig, highlighted liabilities Transocean still potentially faces.

"Under the decision Transocean is, at a minimum, financially responsible for any punitive damages, fines and penalties flowing from its own conduct. As we have said from the beginning, Transocean cannot avoid its responsibility for this accident," a BP statement said.

"By contrast, since the spill we have stepped up, acknowledged our role and paid more than $7.8 billion in claims, advances and other payments to individuals, businesses and governments," BP said.

"Today's ruling makes clear that contractors will be held accountable for their actions under the law. While all official investigations have concluded that Transocean played a causal role in the accident, the contractor has long contended it is fully indemnified by BP for the liabilities resulting from the oil spill. The court rejected this view," BP said.

CNN's Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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