Royal wedding provides comic relief in BP MDL hearing

Alejandro de los Rios Apr. 29, 2011, 5:52am

The Royal Couple

Kate and William kiss

The rescheduling of the latest status conference in the BP oil spill multidistrict litigation to an earlier time prompted a few moments of laughter when the judge and counsel referenced the British Royal wedding.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier was discussing the pace of discovery testimony being gathered in the ongoing litigation and said he would be willing to schedule future status conferences to begin at 8:30 a.m. to accommodate additional hours of testimony.

At that point, Barbier noted that he was in early anyway and jokingly asked how many people in the courtroom were up early to watch British Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton. Less than a few dozen hands rose amongst laughter throughout the courtroom.

"I find it fascinating that we fought the Revolutionary War to get out from under the monarchy," but people are waking up early to watch the Royal Wedding, Barbier said.

After a beat, BP attorney Don Haycraft said, "I couldn't sleep last night, your honor," drawing raucous laughter.

The reprise in normal court proceedings came shortly after Haycraft outlined the amount of oral depositions that are taking place in the expansive litigation surrounding 2010's Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion and ensuing oil spill.

Thus far, 37 depositions have been taken with 95 scheduled in the upcoming weeks and months. Haycraft said the month of June is "particularly packed," and estimated three to four depositions being taken every day in New Orleans and in Britain.

"There are a lot of tired lawyers in this room on both parties," Haycraft said.

In addition to the oral depositions, an estimated 11,000 exhibits have been marked for use through written discovery.

Those numbers pale in comparison to the amount of cases filed as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Barbier said that some 97,000 claims have been filed through "short-form joinders," simplified complaints plaintiffs can fill out to expedite litigation.

In addition to the approximately 11,000 claims filed traditionally, Barbier said a total of about 110,000 claims were filed just pertaining to the Transocean limitation of liability trial set to start in February 2012.

The deadline for filing claims in the liability litigation was this past April 20, the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179

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