As this month’s Report was going to print, testimony had ended in the First Phase of the liability trial before Judge Barbier in New Orleans. The nearly two-month proceeding focused primarily on whether the actions of BP and its partners leading up to the blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig constituted gross negligence. BP was the last defendant to present evidence in the case, and it rested its case April 17. That concludes this initial phase, which began February 25.
To this point, there have been virtually no real surprises in the trial. While BP tried its best to portray itself in a positive light, there is no denying that its conduct leading up to the blowout was atrocious – and the testimony revealed every detail. Perhaps one minor surprise in the case was how poorly Halliburton faired. Testimony regarding Halliburton’s cementing job was very damaging to the company. There should be real concern by Halliburton that it will face a gross negligence finding along with BP and Transocean. The testimony presented conduct and omissions by each of these three companies that reaches and even exceeds the level of gross negligence.
The parties will have 60 days to file written briefs detailing their conclusions. The trial’s second phase will kick off September 16. That phase will focus on efforts that BP and its partners undertook to stop the release of oil and gas. Allegations that BP and Transocean were not prepared to manage a blowout or uncontrolled oil release will be heard by Judge Barbier. From a monetary perspective, all eyes will be focused on the determination of the total amount of oil released. That’s because the federal government’s Clean Water Act fines – which are estimated to be in the tens of billions – are based on the total volume of oil released.
As expected, the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee has done an outstanding job thus far trying the oil spill case. Predictably in cases of this magnitude, there will be Monday morning quarterbacking from lawyers who were not involved and from some in the media, but there is no denying that the PSC has performed at an elite level. If you would like more information on the trial thus far – or on the second phase – contact either Rhon Jones, John Tomlinson, Parker Miller or Chris Boutwell, lawyers in our firm, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com, John.Tomlinson@beasleyallen.com, Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com and Chris.Boutwell@beasleyallen.com. As you may recall, Rhon Jones serves on the PSC. He and a number of our lawyers have spent much of the past several months in New Orleans.
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