Significant Rulings From the Deepwater Horizon Court on Discovery and Evidentiary Matters


The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has been handling hundreds of consolidated cases (involving more than 100,000 individual plaintiffs) brought in the wake of the explosion, fire and capsizing of the Deepwater Horizon mobile offshore drilling unit in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. (See In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon," E.D.LA Case 2:10-md-02179.) As a result of the explosion, millions of gallons of oil were released into the Gulf from the Macondo oil well before it was capped three months later. On March 2, 2012, BP plc, which contracted with Transocean to operate the Deepwater Horizon, announced a proposed settlement that would resolve many of the individual and business claims but not claims brought by the federal, state or local governments. Although the case has not proceeded to trial, the court has already issued many important discovery and evidentiary rulings, some of which we summarize here.

Court Precludes Admission of Evidence Regarding BP's Prior Accidents

The court recently issued a pivotal pretrial order excluding evidence of prior oil refinery accidents, oil spills, and similar incidents involving BP, as well as evidence of prior criminal, civil or regulatory proceedings against BP. (Order and Reasons Regarding Motions in Limine to Exclude Instances of Prior Alleged Improper Conduct and Prior Adverse Criminal, Civil or Regulatory Proceedings, Document 5634, dated February 9, 2012.)

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