Mexico will try BP in its own courts for the first time for reparations for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which has only been prosecuted in U.S. courts. The oil company already agreed to a US$20.8 billion settlement, the biggest in U.S. history, and promised to pay US$43.8 billion in penalties for cleanup costs.
In May, 25,000 Mexican fisherman filed a lawsuit against BP, but they turned to U.S. courts. Their appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court early this month on the grounds that the damage was on Mexican territory. This time, the class action suit is coming to Mexico. The group filing the case, Acciones Colectivas de Sinaloa, specializes in environmental cases and “seeks to strike a balance between suppliers and consumers, since the latter often find themselves at a disadvantage and disorganized,” according to its website.
“The federal prosecutors could have and should have brought this case,” Luis Manuel Pérez de Acha, a lawyer with the group, told the Guardian. “We are only bringing it because they didn’t. Perhaps they don’t have confidence in class actions because we are still in the process of constructing case law in this area.”
Class action lawsuits, which were introduced in 2010, are still rare in Mexico. They are reserved for major rights violations.
Extensive studies have already shown extensive damage to the area—including to marine life, coral reefs and the livelihoods of hundreds of surrounding communities—that BP already acknowledged in court. The new lawsuit, though, would make the Mexican federal prosecutor’s office for the protection of the environment present its own study that it never released. The case against the BP’s Houston and Mexican subsidiaries may reach the supreme court.
The spill was the worst in U.S. history and did not directly affect the Mexican coast until later, due to currents and air contamination. The Mexican states most affected by the rig explosion—Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo—have seen their local economies suffer and may win compensation.