Lawyers for individuals and businesses suing over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill say Halliburton’s delay in turning over key evidence in the ongoing civil trial shows the same recklessness that helped cause the disaster.
For nearly three years, Halliburton failed to hand over cement samples that may have been used with the well that blew out, spewing nearly 5 million barrels, according to government estimates that well owner BP disputes.
The lawyers for the Plaintiffs Steering Committee said in a filing Friday in federal court in New Orleans that the cement contractor’s conduct is part of “an effort by upper management to ratify and conceal Halliburton’s pre-blowout callous disregard for safety.”
The lawyers did not say they would be seeking sanctions against Halliburton in the trial, like BP and the state of Alabama are. Instead, the PSC said it will leave it up to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to determine if Halliburton should be held in contempt.
Possible sanctions could include preventing Halliburton from using certain defenses at the trial, which could make it harder for the company to challenge a finding of gross negligence. Such a finding would allow punitive damages against the company for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Last week at the trial being held before Barbier, Halliburon lawyer Don Godwin acknowledged that officials recently discovered cement samples possibly tied to the ill-fated drilling project that weren’t turned over to the Justice Department after the oil spill.
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Also, a former Halliburton lab manager testified Tuesday that a company official asked him not to record results of a cement stability test related to BP’s blown out Macondo well.
The test was conducted shortly after the spill, using ingredients similar to those used to seal the undersea well that blew out. Timothy Quirk said he told the results to the company official that asked for the test, then he threw away his notes.
“Plaintiffs respectfully submit that Halliburton willfully and intentionally concealed and/or otherwise failed to preserve and/or timely produce and disclose material evidence and/or potentially relevant evidence to the parties and to the court in advance of trial,” the PSC lawyers said in their filing.
On Thursday night, BP said in its motion for sanctions that it wants the court to order that Halliburton’s final cement design was unstable and caused hydrocarbons to enter the well.
“Halliburton’s conduct has undermined the integrity of these proceedings and severely prejudiced BP and the other parties,” BP said in its motion.
BP said that any testing of the samples recently found could be difficult because they would likely have deteriorated given the amount of time that has passed.
“The cumulative effect of Halliburton’s pattern of destruction and spoliation of evidence has been to deprive the court and the parties of significant post-incident evidence relevant to the inherent quality and performance of the cement Halliburton provided for the job at the Macondo well, and the role of that Halliburton slurry design as a cause of the events of April 20, 2010,” BP said.
BP also wants the court to order that the test Quirk performed, the notes of which were destroyed, further establishes that the cement used on the Macondo well was not stable.
Alabama was expected to file its motion for sanctions Saturday.
In an email to the Houston Chronicle after the BP motion was filed, Godwin said, “We’ll aggressively defend as it has no merit. BP is attempting to deflect attention from itself. Halliburton will not be intimidated by BP for things it did not do.”
British oil giant BP owned the Macondo well that blew out a mile beneath the sea off Louisiana, triggering an explosion on the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers. Halliburton provided the cement that failed to keep oil and gas from flowing into the well.
Barbier already has refused to drop gross negligence claims against Halliburton, BP and Transocean at this stage in the trial. He did dismiss gross negligence claims Wednesday against two lesser players in the trial, M-I Swaco and Cameron.