Court to keep BP emails out of Gulf oil spill trial

Kyle Barnett Feb. 9, 2012, 5:26am

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Magistrate Mary Shushan has ruled on behalf of BP to disallow certain email communications from an upcoming trial on Feb. 27 to delineate responsibility among companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and subsequent oil spill.

Shushan ruled that communications were often not within the scope of professional relationships and should be discounted. In addition, the magistrate determined some of the emails were clearly substitutes for phone calls, casual in nature and contained hearsay.

The plaintiff steering committee had sought to introduce the emails into the record.

In a Nov. 20, 2009 string of emails started by Todd Durkee, Anadarko's vice president of operations and development in the Gulf of Mexico, Durkee reported he had spoken to Transocean representatives about damage to a rig unreported by BP. An email in the string from Anadarko employee Alan O'Donnell reads in part "[b]ummer. I'm amazed they didn't tell us about this." Shushan ruled this email was hearsay as it relied on reports of a third party rather than firsthand knowledge.

In a Feb. 13, 2010 email from BP drilling engineer Brian Morel to BP operations geologist Robert Bodek Morel sent from his iPhone a message reading "[t]hanks for the shitty cement job, Trent." The plaintiff steering committee argued that the email spoke directly to poor work done on the Macondo project, but Shushan ruled the email was a joke between friends rather than a communication that could be used as evidence at the trial.

Another email sent on June 10, 2010 by Halliburton employee Ryan Haire relays supposed statements from Transocean and BP that negative pressure tests Halliburton had conducted on the well were successful when Halliburton had actually found them to be unsuccessful. Shushan ruled this email was inadmissible because Haire did not have personal information that either Transocean or BP called the tests successful.

In all rulings Shushan sustained BP's objections to the introduction of the emails.

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