BP wins exclusion of emails from oil spill trial

Wed Feb 8, 2012 5:53pm EST
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - BP Plc won a court order keeping several potentially damaging emails out of a scheduled trial to determine responsibility for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Wednesday's ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan in New Orleans came a day after U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier rejected the oil company's effort to keep evidence about settlements it had already reached out of the trial.

The rulings came as Barbier prepares to preside on February 27 over a non-jury trial to assign blame for the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 people and caused the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Plaintiffs include individuals and businesses, represented by a plaintiffs' steering committee that had sought to introduce the email evidence, as well as states and the U.S. government.

The main corporate defendants include BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd and Halliburton Co, which provided cementing services for the Macondo oil well. Anadarko Petroleum Corp, one of BP's partners in the well, is also involved in the trial.

Shushan granted BP's request to exclude as hearsay several 2009 emails among Anadarko employees about tropical storm damage to another Transocean rig that had been under contract to BP.

In one email, an Anadarko employee expressed disappointment that BP had not disclosed some information related to the damage, prompting another to respond: "Bummer. I'm amazed that they did not tell us about this."

Shushan also granted BP's and Transocean's request to keep out a June 2010 email from Halliburton employee Ryan Haire questioning their reported findings regarding some tests, saying he had no personal knowledge of those findings.   Continued...

<p>One of the remotely operated vehicles (ROV) is seen near the site of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, in this frame grab captured from a BP live video feed August 30, 2010. REUTERS/BP/Handout</p>