BP accident history banned from trial; may come in later

The motions leading up to a trial determining fault for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster are coming fast and furious in the days before the scheduled start of the trial on Feb. 27 in New Orleans.

BP won a motion on Thursday over whether certain previous accidents could be introduced as evidence.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled that circumstances related to the 2005 explosion at BP’s refinery in Texas City and a 2006 oil spill in Prudhoe Bay do not have enough comparable details to be included as evidence.

BP had argued that other parties wanted to introduce the evidence  solely to prove bad character, which is not admissible under federal evidence rules.

Barbier noted that the prior accidents occurred on land, whereas the blowout of BP’s Macando well and destruction of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. He also said that an oil refinery disaster and an exploratory drilling accident are vastly different.

The judge said, however, that some evidence about past accidents may be admissible in assessing possible punitive damages.

The judge estimated that the first phase of the trial will last about three months, although legal experts have speculated that some disputes may be settled prior to the trial.