Cameron dismissed from Gulf oil spill trial
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed all remaining claims against the company that made a key safety device for the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 workers and leading to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling means Houston-based Cameron International is no longer a defendant in the first phase of a trial designed to identify causes of BP’s well blowout and assign fault to the companies involved.
Barbier said Cameron’s only role in the case was making and selling the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon rig.
“Frankly, I’ve heard no evidence during this trial or seen no evidence to support a finding of negligence against Cameron that could have in any way caused or contributed to the accident,” Barbier said, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s proceedings.
BP PLC, rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement contractor Halliburton are the only remaining defendants at the trial, which started Feb. 25.
Barbier said the evidence related to the blowout preventer’s role in the disaster has been directed at BP and Transocean, which owned the device.
“These are obviously sophisticated customers,” Barbier said. “They specified and selected the type of blowout preventer, the components, the arrangement of the components and made decisions. Whether those decisions in the end were right or wrong or proper or not, they made decisions as to how this blowout preventer would be configured and arranged and its capacity and so forth.”
Cameron argued in court filings that plaintiffs’ attorneys failed to prove the blowout preventer’s design was defective in any way.
“A blowout preventer can be the best piece of equipment in the world, but unless it’s activated timely, it really doesn’t matter,” Cameron attorney David Beck said in a telephone interview.
Barbier already had ruled out punitive damages against Cameron on March 20. Barbier also dismissed all claims against M-I LLC, BP’s drilling fluids contractor, on the same day.
Barbier also heard testimony Wednesday, the 21st day of the trial, from two expert witnesses for Halliburton. The company is expected to rest its case this week. BP is scheduled to call its first witness on Monday and expects to finish presenting its defense sometime between April 18 and April 23.
Barbier is hearing testimony without a jury. Barring a settlement, he could decide how much more money the companies owe for their roles in the catastrophe.