BP’s McKay to be first witness at Gulf oil spill trial

 BP America’s chairman and president, Lamar McKay, will be the first witness at the February trial to determine liability for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

“Mr. McKay should be instructed to be present and ready to testify immediately upon completion of the opening statements,” lawyers for businesses and property owners said in a Jan. 20 letter to the company’s attorney Andrew Langan. The letter was filed Tuesday in federal court in New Orleans.

McKay, the highest-ranking U.S. executive of BP, “will be on the stand for the first two days that trial testimony is taken,” attorneys James Roy and Stephen Herman said in the letter. Mark Bly, a BP safety official, will also be on the witness stand in the first week of trial or by the beginning of the second week, Roy and Herman said.

The April 2010 Macondo well blowout and explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits from businesses and coastal property owners against BP, its partners and contractors, including Transocean, the Switzerland-based owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded, and Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services to the project.

The U.S. also sued BP, Transocean and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owned 25 percent of the well, in December 2010, alleging violations of federal pollution laws.

The lawsuits are consolidated for pretrial processing by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. Barbier scheduled a nonjury trial to begin Feb. 27 to determine which companies share blame for the explosion.

Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail and call for comment.