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Florida becomes fourth gulf state to sue BP for Deepwater Horizon oil spill

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, April 20, 2013, 8:39 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida filed a lawsuit on Saturday against oil company BP and cement contractor Halliburton over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — becoming the fourth state to seek damages for the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The suit faults BP for not changing the batteries on the rig's blowout preventer. Halliburton was blamed for installing faulty cement barriers that were supposed to gird the well against oil pressure.

The 40-page complaint by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was filed in U.S. District Court in Panama City. The federal court has jurisdiction under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Bondi sued on the three-year anniversary of the tragedy, which killed 11 rig workers.

Mississippi sued on Friday. Louisiana and Alabama sued BP earlier and are participating in a federal trial that is ongoing in New Orleans to determine the liability of BP and others. Cities and counties along the Gulf Coast also have sued.

A BP spokesman declined comment on Saturday, and Halliburton spokespeople were not immediately available.

A note on BP's website on Saturday from BP America Chairman and President John Mingé said: “On the third anniversary of the tragic accident in the Gulf of Mexico, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our 11 colleagues who died and those injured.”

A battery-operated blowout preventer, powered by “a series of 9-volt battery packs,” was supposed to activate automatically but didn't, according to the lawsuit, because BP didn't replace the batteries.

“BP knew or should have known that the manufacturer recommended replacement of the batteries in the battery packs at least once per year,” Florida's lawsuit says.

Divers later couldn't manually turn it on, either. The suit also blames BP for installing a defective valve on the same blowout preventer.

The spill fouled 1,100 miles of beaches and marsh along the Gulf Coast — keeping away waves of summer tourists who swim and fish in the waters.

“Indeed, Florida relies on the pristine nature of the Gulf of Mexico as the source for much of the attraction of patrons, tourists and visitors,” its litigation says.

The suit focuses on the state's economic losses and includes negligence and other claims under federal, state and maritime law.

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