Bloomberg News

BP Won’t Face Some E-Mails in Gulf Spill Trial, Judge Says

February 09, 2012

(Updates with judge’s comment in third paragraph.)

Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Lawyers suing BP Plc and other defendants over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill won’t be able to use several internal e-mails in the trial over fault for the incident, a judge said.

One e-mail includes a comment from a BP geologist two months before the April 2010 well blowout referring to a “s---- y cement job” at the project. Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services, asked that the e-mail be barred from trial, saying the communication was a joke and the geologist didn’t create it as a business activity.

The comment about the cement job isn’t a business record and “is not admissible,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan said in a ruling today in New Orleans. “It must be demonstrated that the e-mail at issue was not sent or received casually, nor was its creation a mere isolated incident.”

Shushan also excluded an e-mail from a Halliburton employee who called tests before the blowout unsuccessful. London-based BP and Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded, asked the judge to exclude the June 2010 e-mail, calling it hearsay.

In the e-mail, Ryan Haire of Halliburton told another company employee: “I read some report that stated that the two negative tests we did were considered successful? I stated that I found them to unsuccessful and I was checking to see if maybe you knew why Transocean and BP were calling them successful?”

‘No Evidence’

“There is no evidence that Haire possessed personal knowledge that BP and Transocean called the two negative pressure tests successful,” Shushan said today.

She also barred use of several e-mails between managers at Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BP’s partner in the well, written in 2009 over storm damage to another deepwater drilling rig. The material “is hearsay, and it is not admissible,” Shushan said.

The explosion of the BP well killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. It also spurred hundreds of lawsuits against BP and its partners, including Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean, Houston-based Halliburton and The Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko, which owned 25 percent of the well.

The nonjury trial begins Feb. 27 in federal court in New Orleans before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. Shushan’s decisions on evidence must be approved by Barbier before trial. She gave the parties until tomorrow to make any objections.

The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

--With assistance from Allen Johnson Jr. in New Orleans and William Barlow in Princeton, New Jersey. Editor: Stephen Farr

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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