U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier announced Friday that he would sign an order that would keep millions of documents from litigation stemming from BP's Texas City oil refinery explosion confidential.
The announcement came during a status conference for the multidistrict litigation involving the Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Barbier, who presides over oil spill litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, drew laughter recalling how the evidence was introduced into the BP MDL.
"This is the hard drive that was deftly handed off to you?" Barbier asked Plaintiff Steering Committee attorney Steve Herman. "I believe it was a wishbone formation."
Barbier was referring to when Texas lawyer Brent Coon, wearing a brown blazer and jeans, submitted a hard drive with 7 million documents from the Texas City litigation at the end of a December status conference in the BP MDL.
At that hearing, BP attorney Andrew Langan said he learned about the documents "about five seconds ago" when Barbier asked if he was aware of their content. Coon said that it was all the discovery he completed in the Texas City case which he made sure were left open to the public.
Some of the documents fall under a confidentiality order signed by Barbier in the BP MDL regarding evidence and discovery from the Texas City litigation.
BP's Texas City refinery exploded in 2005, killing 19 and injuring 170 people. Coon was part of the plaintiff leadership committee in the subsequent litigation. In 2009 the Occupational Safety & Health Administration fined BP $87 million for failing to fix safety hazards that led to the explosion.
Barbier said that the documents that are marked confidential will continue to be so, and BP reserves to right to object to the introduction of evidence based on relevance.
Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179