A 37-page memo submitted to the U.S. District Court in New Orleans alleges a "culture of corporate recklessness" at BP led to the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest accidental oil spill in history.
A court filing, issued last week, said the U.S. government intends to "prove gross negligence or willful misconduct." The U.S. Justice Department, in a memo, added that it was concerned BP was trying to use a proposed $7.8 billion settlement to limit its future liability.
BP spokesman Mark Salt was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying there were ongoing disputes about the underlying circumstances surrounding the spill.
"BP believes it was not grossly negligent and looks forward to presenting evidence on this issue at trial in January," he said.
A report from U.S. regulators determined that the blowout that led to the explosion that sunk the Deepwater Horizon platform in 2010 came from the failure of a cement barrier at an underwater oil well.
The FBI in April accused BP engineer Kurt Mix of deleting electronic records related to the amount of oil that was leaking from the Macondo well under the rig after it exploded in April 2010.