Yesterday, the federal judge in New Orleans who is handling the BP oil spill MDL litigation rejected BP’s effort to set aside its liability finding. BP has already stated its intent to appeal to the 5th Circuit. In the meantime, however, it still faces as much as $18 billion in Clean Water Act penalties.
On September 4, 2014, Judge Barbier issued his liability determination. At that time, he determined that BP was grossly negligent and apportioned 67% of the responsibility for the oil spill to BP. On October 2, 2014, BP filed a motion to set aside the finding or grant a new trial, contending that the liability finding improperly relied on excluded evidence of a casing breach theory proffered by Halliburton and its expert, Dr. Gene Beck. Both Halliburton and the Department of Justice responded to BP’s motion, arguing that BP actually solicited the evidence on cross-examination of Dr. Beck, thereby opening the door.
On November 13, 2014, Judge Barbier denied BP’s motion to amend the findings, alter or amend the judgment or for new trial. In doing so, he agreed with Halliburton and the DOJ that the testimony at issue was, at least in part, elicited by BP’s own cross-examination, as well as Halliburton’s re-direct examination after BP opened the door. According to the ruling, “BP was not, as it claims, a ‘victim of surprise.’ . . . Rather, it seems BP was a ‘victim’ of its own trial strategy.” The ruling also observed that the casing-breach theory at issue was corroborated by multiple pieces of other evidence.
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)