On September 4, 2014, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier rendered his ruling on liability for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In that ruling, Judge Barbier found BP grossly negligent and apportioned 67% of the fault for the oil spill to BP (leaving 30% for Transocean and 3% to Halliburton). Separate and apart from any other civil liability it may face, if the ruling stands, BP may confront as much as $18 billion in Clean Water Act penalties.
In response, on October 2, 2014, BP asked the Court to set aside its finding or grant a new trial, arguing that the ruling improperly relied on evidence that was excluded. In particular, BP contended that because it was not included in the expert report, the judge could not rely on certain testimony from Halliburton’s expert about BP subjecting the production casing to 140,000 pounds of compressive force, which the Court found led to a breach in the production casing below the float collar and caused the cement to be improperly placed.
Last Thursday, both Halliburton and the U.S. Department of Justice responded to BP’s motion, basically arguing that BP waived its objection to the evidence and opened the door to its consideration by exploring the bases for the expert’s opinion on cross-examination. They suggest that BP re-introduced the evidence on cross-examination, permitting Halliburton then to follow up on re-direct examination and entitling the Court to rely on the expert’s trial testimony.
While the ultimate outcome remains uncertain, the ongoing dispute emphasizes the potentially significant impact of evidentiary determinations and trial strategy on a company’s bottom line.
In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, Case No. 2:10-md-02179 (E.D. LA)