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Deepwater Horizon Judge Won't Amend Order; BP Still Grossly Negligent

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on November 17, 2014 11:06 AM

You'll recall that back in September, Judge Carl Barbier laid out a comprehensive, 153-page order filled with 111 pages of facts that concluded BP was grossly negligent in the operation of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, leading to the largest marine oil spill in history.

BP petitioned Barbier to reconsider his finding of gross negligence (after being caught manipulating the line spacing to get more words into a brief). In a November 13 order, Barbier declined to amend his giant order.

Beef, Denied

BP's beef with Barbier's findings centered around expert testimony that it said the court improperly relied on in making its factual conclusions. BP wanted the court to amend the order to foist blame onto others; namely, that Halliburton's defective cement caused hydrocarbons to escape, not BP's breach of the casing of the well cap. It also wanted Barbier to reject the finding of gross negligence and recalculate the relative fault of BP and Halliburton.

The court was unimpressed. It declined to strike the expert testimony because the specific information he provided, that BP objects to, was elicited during BP's cross examination. "Notably, BP's counsel did not object to or move to strike Dr. Beck's responses during cross-examination," Barbier wrote.

Pandora's Testimony

Moreover, "BP's counsel opened the door to this testimony on cross-examination and Halliburton properly explored the issue further on redirect." So, no, you don't get to have your cake and eat it too. Oh, and one more tidbit reflecting what Barbier really thinks: "At bottom, BP's motion represents a belated attempt to exclude testimony elicited in part by its own cross-examination ... BP was not, as it claims, a 'victim of surprise.' Rather, it seems BP was a 'victim' of its own trial strategy."

That's the problem with opening the door: You may not know what's on the other side. And a "bad" fact, once out in the open, can't be contained again. Mostly, though, Barbier emphasized that BP hadn't objected to the testimony at trial, leading him to conclude that BP had waived its right to object to the testimony.

Ever since Barbier's September 4 order finding BP grossly negligent, it's tried different tricks to avoid liability, including having the administrator of the claims payouts removed because the administrator used to work for the state of Louisiana on oil spill claims. Barbier declined to remove him, finding that BP already knew about his past as a lawyer for Louisiana even if he didn't come out and say so formally before being appointed.

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