United States of America and State of Louisiana v. CITGO Petroleum Corp.

(Client: CITGO Petroleum Corp.)

In the first-ever trial under the civil-penalty provisions of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana adopted arguments and evidence presented by Barrasso Usdin trial lawyers in rejecting a $247 million penalty championed by the U.S. Department of Justice after the firm's client - a major oil company - admitted fault for a 2006 oil spill from its land-based refinery into the Calcasieu River. The Court adopted the defense's evidence on volume of oil released, as well as evidence that the client's conduct had not garnered it mammoth financial benefits, as the DOJ contended during the two-week bench trial. The Court also agreed that the spill was not the result of intentional conduct or gross negligence and, thus, rejected the DOJ's claim for enhanced penalties. In light of its findings, the Court computed a penalty under OPA's per-barrel provisions that constituted less than 3% of the penalty urged by the DOJ. Rick Sarver and Craig Isenberg led the trial team.