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    BP Faces Another Blast Lawsuit

    Victims seek $950 million in punitive damages.

    GALVESTON, Texas -- BP is back in court as 10 plaintiffs seek $950 million in punitive damages from the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion, attorney Brent Coon told the Houston Chronicle.

    "We believe the only way a company like BP is going to get the message is to hit them in the pocketbook," Coon told 200 potential jurors that were being screened for conflicts of interest last week.

    Coon drew gasps from a couple of jurors for his pointed remarks, according to the report. One potential juror said the amount the 10 plaintiffs were seeking was much too large because BP paid less to settle other lawsuits, the paper reported.

    BP spokesman Daren Beaudo declined to comment to the paper about the $950 million figure. The company has settled the majority of the approximate 4,000 suits filed as a result of the blast, including those involving deaths and the most serious injuries such as lost limbs. In previous statements, Beaudo has said the company committed $2.1 billion to settle claims for injuries and deaths, according to the report.

    Within the last year, two other lawsuits concerning the blast have gone to trial, but were eventually settled before a jury was assigned. BP has defended itself against claims that it knew the plant was unsafe, but under directives to cut costs, the company failed to make improvements, the Chronicle reported.

    During opening statements in previous trials, BP lawyers painted plaintiffs as "opportunistic," and overstating minor injuries for a big payoff, the paper reported. Attorneys also criticized plaintiffs for failing to seek medical help until a year or more after the blast. In some cases, they asserted that plaintiffs sought medical attention on the advice of attorneys, according to the report.

    The 2005 explosion killed fifteen and left hundreds injured. BP's post-blast, $1 billion overhaul of the plant included the replacement stacks with flares, which burn off excess vapors and liquid, two elements that contributed to the blast, the report stated.

    Unless a settlement is reached quickly, BP told the Houston Chronicle lawyers will question the jury pool and testimony would start this week.

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