On February 13, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion, written by Justice Eva Guzman and joined by all but one of the other members of the Court, holding that BP is not an additional insured under Transocean’s policies, which afford $750 million in coverage for subsea pollution arising out of the 2010 blowout at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. A holding in BP’s favor would have stripped Transocean of all insurance coverage because BP’s liabilities for subsea pollution resulting from the Macondo blowout are in excess of $750 million.
The Court announced its holding in answer to a question certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A Fifth Circuit panel had held that BP was an additional insured, reversing the decision of District Judge Carl Barbier, who is presiding over the mammoth litigation arising from the Macondo blowout. The en banc Fifth Circuit then withdrew the panel opinion and certified the question of insurance coverage, controlled by Texas law, to the Texas Supreme Court.
Reagan Simpson, who leads Yetter Coleman’s appellate group, argued the case for Transocean and its insurers in the Texas Supreme Court. He also joined the following counsel in briefing the issue to the Supreme Court: former Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriett O’Neill; John Elsley of Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams; and four lawyers with Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan: Steven Roberts, Rachel Clingman (now General Counsel for BHP Billiton Petroleum), former Texas District Judge and former Court of Appeals Justice Kent Sullivan, and Sean Jordan.