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US Judge: BP Grossly Negligent in 2010 Oil Spill

FILE - Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21, 2010.

A U.S. judge has ruled that British oil giant BP was grossly negligent in the 2010 explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the waters off the southern U.S. coast.

The ruling Thursday by Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, Louisiana, near the site of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, leaves BP facing up to $18 billion in fines. The figure is much higher than if the judge had not ruled that the company's "conduct was reckless."

In a 153-page decision, Barbier said that BP ignored warning signs that the oil well was unstable and made decisions that were "primarily driven by a desire to save time and money," rather than to make certain the well was secure.

The judge did not rule how much oil was dumped into the Gulf of Mexico from the accident, but the U.S. government estimates it was more than 200 million gallons. An eventual ruling on the size of the spill will play a role in determining the size of the BP fine.

BP said it "strongly disagrees" with Barbier's decision and will appeal it.