BP wins motion to keep past failures out of oil spill trial

Kyle Barnett Feb. 14, 2012, 5:53am


NEW ORLEANS � U.S. Federal Judge Carl Barbier has granted a motion by BP to keep past instances of criminal activity and improper conduct out of the Deepwater Horizon trial.

Barbier claimed the past failures were not sufficiently similar to the Deepwater Horizon incident to warrant their inclusion. However, the judge did say instances of past criminal, civil and regulatory proceedings against BP may be used in assessing punitive damages against the company in later phases of the trial.

The plaintiff steering committee was hoping to introduce past safety failures by the company to show BP has a history of negligence. Of those past incidents the 2005 explosion of a refinery at Texas City could have been potentially the most damaging. BP pled guilty to violations of the Clean Air Act and was fined $50 million in the Texas City incident that killed 15 people and injured 80.

Another instance blocked by Barbier was the 2000 Grangemouth, Scotland, petrochemical facility incident in which a fire was created by an ignited vapor cloud subsequent to power failure and a steam pipe main rupture. No one was seriously injured in that occurrence.

The final incident disallowed as evidence was the failure of a corroded pipeline in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, that resulted in 200,000 gallons of spilled oil. Due to that incident BP pled guilty to criminal counts under the Clean Water Act and was assessed a $20 million fine.

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