U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has received a stack of motions from BP asking him to seal testimony and strike evidence in the upcoming Gulf Oil Spill trial scheduled for February 27, 2012. It appears that BP’s motions to seal testimony and strike evidence is a key part of their defense strategy.
BP’s numerous motions asking the judge to exclude various pieces of evidence include:
Read the motions below:
In an article published at Nola.com, BP says in numerous court filings that its opponents are trying to unfairly smear the company’s character by looking at regulatory entanglements and at incidents such as a system failure at a chemical plant in Scotland, a corroded pipeline that ruptured in Alaska and the explosion in Texas City, which killed 15 workers. The company says that these incidents occurred in environments different from the Gulf of Mexico, have no connection to the facts about the April 2010 disaster, and will distract attention in a proceeding that’s already dense with information, and should be excluded. The company further says that as one of the world’s biggest companies, it’s not surprising that it would have workplace accidents in its record.
BP also states that former CEO Tony Hayward was improperly badgered and harassed during his deposition and further states that issues involving how employees are recruited, promoted and compensated should be excluded as irrelevant.
Other companies involved in the litigation have also asked Judge Barbier to seal exhibits so they can’t be discussed in open court and won’t be available as part of the public record, even though they can be used in the trial.
Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan told the parties during a working group conference on Friday that the court intended to conduct a public proceeding.
“Come trial, unless it’s the formula for Coca-Cola, it all comes in. We’re not going to lock and unlock the door,” Shushan said.
During the conference BP attorney Andy Langan said that getting a ruling from Judge Barbier on BP’s “other incidents” motion was a top priority.
But the U.S. Department of Justice, the plaintiff attorneys committee and even Halliburton say that BP’s history of workplace disasters is central to the litigation. They say it’s not a matter of establishing character, as BP claims, but rather of assessing the culture of safety at the company responsible for the nation’s worst environmental disaster. If BP had implemented the “process safety” changes that it promised after Texas City, the Deepwater Horizon blowout wouldn’t have been possible.
In addition, Halliburton said BP’s “flagrant” violations of safety standards are not normal within the oil industry or for large industrial organizations.
In their opposition to BP, the plaintiffs suggest that Hayward might have perjured himself before Congress during his deposition when he said that BP had done a “full and comprehensive” investigation of the Macondo blowout and had invested heavily in safety. The plaintiffs also say that depositions also show that BP executives were rewarded for cutting costs, that a process safety specialist was fired in November 2009 and his boss was asked to leave the company shortly thereafter and was given “hush” money.