Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court

No. 13-0670
TAMES

IN RE DEEPWATER HORIZON

Oral argument was held on September 16, 2014. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on February 13, 2015. It then denied rehearing on May 29, 2015 File Closed

In the news...

Tracking 5 articles about this case.

February 18, 2015

SCOTX answers certified questions, denies BP coverage

from 600 Camp

The Court has issued opinions:

June 16, 2014

Three opinions, one grant [Jun. 13, 2014]

from SCOTXblog

This article also mentions 18 other cases.

September 6, 2013

SCOTX takes the Deepwater Horizon case [Sep. 6, 2013]

from SCOTXblog

The article also mentions:
  • TEXAS ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE v. MICHELE NGAKOUE
  • TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER v. MARGARITA HERNANDEZ VILLAGRAN, ET AL.
  • August 29, 2013

    The fight over the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill reaches the Texas Supreme Court

    from SCOTXblog

    August 29, 2013

    Court Reverses OK for BP to Access Transocean Insurance to Pay Oil Spill Costs

    from Insurance Journal

    Opinions

    February 13, 2015

    Guzman
    Hecht
    Green
    Willett
    Lehrmann
    Boyd
    Devine
    Brown

    Justice Guzman delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Hecht, Justice Green, Justice Willett, Justice Lehrmann, Justice Boyd, Justice Devine, and Justice Brown joined. PDF

    Johnson

    Justice Johnson delivered a dissenting opinion.View Electronic Briefs | Oral Argument | Video PDF

     

    Court of Appeals

    None

    Trial Court

    None

    Docket Entries

    Date Event Outcome  
    2015-08-11 Case Stored  
      This case was waiting for a possible rehearing motion between May 29, 2015 and August 11, 2015.  
    2015-05-29 Motion for Rehearing - Disposed Withdrawn
    2015-05-29 Motion to withdraw disposed of   Filing granted
    2015-05-27 Motion to Withdraw Filed  
    2015-05-15 Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response  
    2015-04-22 Case forwarded to Court
    2015-04-22 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2015-04-22 Motion for Rehearing  
    2015-03-26 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-26 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-26 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-26 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-26 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-26 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-25 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2015-03-25 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2015-03-25 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2015-03-25 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2015-03-25 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2015-03-25 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2015-03-24 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing disposed   Filing granted
    2015-03-24 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing  
    2015-03-04 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
    2015-02-19 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing  
    2015-02-19 Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for Rehearing disposed   Filing granted
    2015-02-13 Opinion issued   Certified question answered by the Court
    2015-02-13 Dissenting opinion issued.   Issued
      This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between December 10, 2014 and February 13, 2015.  
    2014-12-10 Notice from Counsel of a change in address  
      This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between September 16, 2014 and December 10, 2014.  
    2014-09-16 Oral argument  
    2014-09-15 Exhibits in case/cause filed (Appellee in case)  
    2014-08-29 Amicus Curiae Brief received (Amicus Curiae)  
    2014-08-12 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
    2014-08-08 Motion for leave to file brief disposed   Filing granted
    2014-08-08 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-08-08 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
    2014-07-31 Motion for leave to file brief  
    2014-07-31 Corrected Brief (Appellant in case)  
    2014-07-31 Call received  
    2014-06-19 Notice from Counsel of a change in address  
    2014-06-13 Case set for oral argument   Case set for oral argument
    2014-06-02 Letter Filed  
    2014-05-21 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-05-19 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-05-02 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-05-02 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-05-02 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-05-02 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-29 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-29 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-29 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-29 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-15 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-15 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-15 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-15 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-14 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-14 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2014-04-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-04-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2014-03-31 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-03-28 Electronic communication sent to Party  
    2014-03-27 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-03-14 Fully hyperlinked brief filed (Appellant in case)  
    2014-03-13 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-03-10 Reply Brief (Appellant in case)  
    2014-02-21 Fully hyperlinked brief filed (Appellee in case)  
    2014-02-21 Fully hyperlinked brief filed (Appellee in case)  
    2014-01-31 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2014-01-31 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2014-01-23 Brief on the Merits (Appellee in case)  
    2014-01-23 Brief on the Merits (Appellee in case)  
    2014-01-23 Brief on the Merits (Appellee in case)  
    2014-01-21 Designation of Lead Counsel  
    2013-12-30 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2013-12-30 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2013-12-13 Fully hyperlinked brief filed (Appellant in case)  
    2013-11-26 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2013-11-26 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2013-11-20 Brief on the Merits (Appellant in case)  
    2013-10-30 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2013-10-30 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2013-09-25 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2013-09-25 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2013-09-16 Designation of Lead Counsel  
    2013-09-13 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-13 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-13 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-13 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-12 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-12 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-12 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-12 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-11 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-09 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-09 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-09 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-09 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-09 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-09 Pro hac vice motion disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-06 Brief on the Merits Requested  
    2013-09-06 Certified Question accepted
    2013-09-06 Certified Question disposed   Certified Question accepted
    2013-09-06 Notice of Appearance  
    2013-09-06 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-06 Pro hac vice motion filed  
    2013-09-03 Notice of Appearance  
    2013-09-03 Notice of Appearance  
    2013-08-30 Notice of Appearance  
    2013-08-30 Notice of Appearance  
    2013-08-30 Notice requesting filing fee  
    2013-08-29 Certified Question filed  
    2013-08-29 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
    2013-08-29 Case Record Filed  

    Parties

    Party Counsel Role
    BP P.L.C.
    Mr. William Richard (Rick) Thompson II
    Mr. David B. Goodwin
    Mr. Allan B. Moore
    Mr. Thomas L. Cubbage III
    Ms. Deborah G. Hankinson
    Mark D. Herman
    Christine G. England
    M. Alexia Depottere-Smith
    Appellant
    Ranger Insurance Limited
    Mr. Byron C. Keeling
    Mr. David W. Holman
    Mr. Michael J. Maloney
    Ms. Ruth B. Downes
    Mr. Dwayne Richard Day
    Appellee
    Certain Underwriters at Lloyds London
    Ms. Kathleen Hopkins Alsina
    Mr. George B. Hall Jr.
    Mr. Richard N. Dicharry
    Appellee
    Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc.
    Mr. Steven L. Roberts
    Mr. Kent C. Sullivan
    Mr. John M. Elsley
    Ms. Rachel Giesber Clingman
    Mr. Daniel O. Goforth
    Mr. Brad D. Brian
    Mr. Sean D. Jordan
    Mr. Daniel B. Levin
    Mr. Reagan W. Simpson
    Ms. Harriet O'Neill
    Appellee

    Amici Curiae

    Amicus Curiae Counsel
    United Policyholders
    Ms. Meredith Welch Knudsen
    National Association of Manufacturers
    Ms. Pamela Stanton Baron
    International Association fo Drilling Contractors
    Mr. Kenneth G. Engerrand
    Aviation Insurance Association
    Mr. William A. Sherwood
    Mr. Bruce M. Strikowsky
    Mr. Barry S. Alexander
    B&G Risk Strategies LLC
    Mr. Bradley A. Jackson
    Lloyd's Markt Association, International Underwriting Association, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and American Institute of Marine Underwriters
    Jacob Esparza
    Ms. Karen Ann Conticello
    Mr. Glenn Richard Legge
    Allianz Global Corporate
    Jeffrey Bentch
    Mr. J. Clifton Hall III
    Mr. William P. Maines

    BP does not have insurance coverage as an "additional insured" under the policy purchased by Transocean

    In 2010, a drilling rig owned by Transocean and developed by BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to months of subsurface oil leakage, damage to coastal communities and industries, and other serious claims. In the parties’ drilling contract, Transocean was to be responsible for above-surface pollution risks while BP was to be responsible for subsurface pollution risks. Another provision of the contract required Transocean to provide "additional insured" protection to BP.

    BP sued over the scope of this "additional insured" coverage, arguing that Transocean’s insurers must cover BP’s losses, regardless whether the specific cause was above or below the surface.

    The Fifth Circuit originally ruled in favor of BP, concluding that the insurance policy itself did not limit the scope of coverage afforded to BP and that, under EVANSTON INSURANCE COMPANY v. ATOFINA PETROCHEMICALS, INC., No. 03-0647, it should not look beyond the text of that document to find a limitation to coverage. On rehearing, however, the Fifth Circuit withdrew its opinion and chose to certify this question to the Texas Supreme Court to authoritatively address two questions under Texas law:

    1. Does ATOFINA compel a finding that BP is covered for these damages?

    2. Does the doctrine of contra proferentem (that is, construing a contract against the person who drafted it) apply even in a sophisticated commercial context?

    The Texas Supreme Court reached the opposite result, basing its decision on a less restrictive reading of ATOFINA, one that is compatible with the idea that an insurance policy can effectively “incorporate” another document needed to understand its scope:

    Texas law has long allowed insurance policies to incorporate other documents by reference, and policy language dictates the extent to which another document is so incorporated. The policies here provide additional-insured coverage automatically where required and as obligated by written contract in which an insured has agreed to assume the tort liability of another party. Because BP is not named as an insured in the Transocean policies or any certificates of insurance, the insurance policies direct us to the additional-insured provision in the Drilling Contract to determine the existence and scope of coverage. Applying the only reasonable construction of that provision, we conclude that, as it pertains to the damages at issue, BP is an additional insured under the Transocean policies only to the extent of the liability Transocean assumed for above-surface pollution.

    Having concluded that BP is covered by Transocean’s policies only to the extent that the drilling contract required, the Court answered the first question no, that there is no coverage.

    The Court did not reach the second question about the contra preferentum doctrine because that rule applies only to ambiguous text, and it saw no ambiguity here.

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