Halliburton said BP should not be granted a retrial for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill after the UK supermajor argued the court relied on evidence that had been excluded to decide that it was “grossly negligent.”
The petition concerns a key piece of testimony from a Halliburton expert witness, petroleum engineer Gene Beck, that explained the cause of the blowout.
Beck submitted an expert report on behalf of Halliburton that said the Macondo well had been hit with 140,000 pounds of compressive force during drilling, causing a rupture in the casing that eventually led to the blowout.
Judge Carl Barbier agreed with Beck’s findings, concluding that flawed drilling practices breached the well’s metal casing and did not allow a proper seal to be formed when Halliburton poured cement into the well.
The blowout caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history and killed 11 people.
At the start of the trial BP had successfully petitioned to have the testimony excluded.
However, during cross-examination a BP lawyer discussed the report and, in doing so, reintroduced it as testimony.
Dallas-based Halliburton said Barbier did not improperly use Beck’s testimony to reach his decision.
“Beck’s testimony was properly admitted, and the court’s reliance on that testimony is sound,” Halliburton said.
The Department of Justice said Monday that even if Beck’s testimony was excluded there would still be sufficient evidence to justify the gross negligence ruling.
The judge identified a series of errors, from unsafe drilling to misreading pressure tests, that all caused the accident.
“Indeed, removal of one disputed point of testimony would affect at most only a few sentences [of the ruling],” the federal prosecutor for the case said.
BP has earmarked $42 billion to pay for cleanup costs. So far, the company has paid about $28 billion for cleanup, penalties, fines and compensation.
Barbier’s ruling means that BP could face up to $18 billion in penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act.
The penalty phase of the trial is set to start in January 2015.