Halliburton: Disqualify attorneys as well as BP experts

Steve Korris Jan. 9, 2012, 4:00pm


NEW ORLEANS – Disqualification of BP's cement experts from Deepwater Horizon litigation should extend to lawyers who gained information from the experts, Halliburton Energy Services pleaded in federal court on Jan. 3.

Halliburton asked Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan to disqualify all counsel involved with CSI Technologies of Houston, owner Fred Sabins and engineer Michael Viator.

"The attorneys who worked with Sabins and CSI will inevitably taint the substitute expert," Donald Godwin of Dallas wrote.

"BP's counsel necessarily discussed and analyzed Sabins' opinions with him in detail as he developed his expert reports, which were served after he employed Viator," he wrote.

"Consequently, any counsel having direct contact with Sabins and CSI are equally tainted, and therefore constitute a potential source of contamination of the substitute expert," he wrote.

Shushan disqualified Sabins and his firm on Dec. 8, writing that his decision to hire Viator was the sole cause for her decision.

Viator had worked at Halliburton, developing software and strategy for its defense against BP's claims that the failure of its cement caused the explosion.

Shushan wrote, "As to BP, it is a harsh result, but one which is warranted by Mr. Sabins's actions and which is necessary to preserve the integrity of the judicial process."

"Sabins did not erect a sufficient screen to prevent Viator from having any contact whatsoever concerning CSI's work on the BP consultation," she wrote. "Sabins acted to his, CSI's, and ultimately BP's detriment."

U. S. District Judge Carl Barbier affirmed her order on Dec. 16.

On Dec. 27, Shushan ordered BP to identify a substitute expert by Jan. 3, serve an expert report by Jan. 9, and produce the expert for deposition by Jan. 16.

She set a Jan. 9 deadline for BP to show its substitute had no contact with CSI's work or with Viator's work at Halliburton.

On Dec. 28, she set a Jan. 3 deadline for BP to appeal the deadlines to Barbier.

At the close of business on Jan. 9, BP hadn't appealed or identified a substitute.

Halliburton took initiative while BP stalled, moving to disqualify lawyers.

"Sabins did not submit an affidavit explaining his actions or the scope of his contact with Viator, and thus the use of HESI's confidential information," Godwin wrote.

"Sabins himself never disclosed whether Viator was privy to attorney meetings at CSI," he wrote.

"Moreover, Viator was present at CSI, a small consulting firm working directly on this litigation, for more than six months."

He wrote that clarification might avoid any delay of trial scheduling.

Barbier plans a fault allocation trial starting next month.

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