A federal judge has refused to reconsider his finding that BP acted with gross negligence and willful misconduct in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, New Orleans, also denied BP’s request for a new trial while rebutting the company’s contention that his negligence ruling was based on excluded evidence about why the oil leak couldn’t be stopped.
“Even assuming that the complained-of testimony was excluded during direct examination, BP’s own counsel later opened the door to this testimony,” the judge said last week in his opinion that cited some of an expert witness’ statements.
What’s more, he said, “the casing-breach theory is supported and/or corroborated by multiple pieces of other evidence, which undercuts BP’s argument that the challenged testimony was critical to the larger conclusions regarding casing-breach and flow path.”
BP’s motion “represents a belated attempt to exclude testimony elicited in part by its own cross-examination,” Judge Barbier said. “BP was not, as it claims, a ‘victim of surprise.’ Rather, it seems BP was a ‘victim’ of its own trial strategy.”
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell told the Associated Press that the company disagrees with Barbier's order. BP earlier said it would appeal the judge’s September ruling that paves the way for up to $18 billion in penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Eleven people were killed and at least 17 injured in the explosion that spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months making it the largest oil spill in offshore history.
Judge Carl Barbier apportioned 67 percent of the fault to BP Exploration & Production, Inc., 30 percent to three Transocean entities, and 3 percent to Halliburton Energy Service, Inc. and Halliburton’s Sperry division. The judge found Transocean’s and Haliburton’s conduct negligent.
A trial phase set for January must determine the amount of oil spilled and the fine. CWA penalties of $1,100 per barrel are almost quadrupled to $4,300 when the spill results from gross negligence.