Litigation

Oil Spill MDL Judge Issues Protocol For Evidence Preservation

NEW ORLEANS - Since consolidation last month of the Gulf oil spill litigation into MDL 2179 in the Eastern District of Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier has taken up several issues. 

At a status conference, Judge Barbier discussed removal and preservation of the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer (BOP) and related equipment, which is expected to be key evidence in the litigation.

Judge Barbier issued an amended order Aug. 26 outlining the protocol for preserving the BOP, making clear that the court does not intend to restrict or direct the activities of any defendants or the Unified Command in their well control and remediation efforts.  He said the chain of custody and evidence preservation protocol meets safety and environmental concerns.

In his order, released before the BOP was raised on Sept. 4, the judge said the BOP removal involves injecting cement into the well under pressure.

Care will be taken not to damage the BOP or other equipment during removal or transfer.  Any alterations required because of the removal process must be photographed and documented, he said.  No metallurgical testing can be conducted without court approval, according to the order.

A party that retains logs/summaries, photographs, measurements, videotape, film, diagrams, 3-D analysis, wall thickness readings, and/or other documentation of the recovery and/or chain of custody upon completion of the BOP retrieval operation must make the data available to other parties.

Once removed, the BOP will be transferred to a NASA facility for temporary storage.  Counsel in the litigation must meet to discuss long-term storage of the equipment, the judge said.

On Aug. 24, Judge Barbier issued an order consolidating into the MDL an action seeking exoneration from or limitation of liability that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas by Triton Asset Leasing, GMBH, Transocean Holdings L.L.C, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater (No. 10-2771).

The judge also addressed several preliminary matters, including outlining procedures for transferring cases, establishing deadlines for requesting class certification, designating interim liaison counsel and dictating how to handle motions filed in cases prior to transfer.

A pretrial conference in the MDL is set for Sept. 16.

This update first appeared in HB's Oil Litigation & Insurance Coverage Report.  Developments like this and more will be discussed at the conference titled "Oil in the Gulf: Litigation & Insurance Coverage" scheduled for Nov. 4-5 in Miami produced by HB Litigation Conferences.  For more information, visit www.LitigationConferences.com

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