Halliburton wants Barbier to disqualify engineer for 'switching sides' to BP

Steve Korris Nov. 21, 2011, 2:29pm


NEW ORLEANS – Halliburton Energy Services Inc. claims an employee who helped develop strategy for litigation over the Deepwater Horizon explosion quit his job and joined a firm that helps rig operator BP develop an opposing strategy.

On Nov. 15, Halliburton asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to disqualify engineer Michael Viator, CSI Technologies, and CSI owner Fred Sabins as experts for BP.

"HESI recently learned that Viator, after switching sides, revealed confidential information to Sabins and CSI as they assisted BP in formulating its claims and defenses against HESI," Donald Godwin of Dallas wrote.

"Because Sabins and CSI consciously and affirmatively tainted themselves in this case, their continued work for BP unfairly prejudices HESI and offends the integrity of the judicial process," he wrote.

Halliburton faces hundreds of suits as cement contractor on the rig.

As Barbier prepares to allocate fault for the explosion at trial in February, defendants strive as mightily as plaintiffs to pin blame on other defendants.

According to Godwin, Viator created computer models and assisted Halliburton counsel in formulating strategies.

He wrote that Viator resigned in March.

He wrote that he began working for Sabins in April without Halliburton's knowledge.

"Prior to leaving HESI, Viator transferred confidential electronic files that he utilized as part of the internal expert team, including simulations, onto an external thumb drive, which he still has in his possession," Godwin wrote.

"Shortly after Viator began working for CSI and Sabins, BP suddenly turned its attention to gaining access to HESI's proprietary software and the data inputs.

"BP's abrupt focus on accessing HESI's modeling software was occasioned by Viator's disclosure of HESI's work product, his post incident modeling."

He wrote that Halliburton learned Viator worked for CSI on Oct. 4.

He wrote that Halliburton deposed Viator on Nov. 2, and discovered he had revealed confidential information.

"Sabins assigned Viator to at least two tasks related to this litigation, and Viator knew that this work would be used against HESI," Godwin wrote.

"Given the public importance and the magnitude of this unprecedented litigation, such indiscretions cannot be tolerated."

He wrote that as an alternative to disqualification, he would ask to depose Sabins and produce Viator's time sheets.

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