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In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon"

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20248
Nos. MDL 2179, (E.D. La., 11/10/2014) (Barbier, J.)

A district court denied an oil company's motion to amend the findings, alter the judgment, or order a new trial in the Deepwater Horizon case in which the court found the company grossly negligent in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The company argued that it repeatedly objected to expert witness testimony, which concerned the weakened state of the production casing, because it was outside the "four corners" of the witness' expert report, and that the court sustained those objections. It therefore claimed that it was unfairly surprised and prejudiced when the court “inappropriate[ly] and impermissibl[ly]” relied on this testimony in making the phase one findings. But even assuming that the complained-of testimony was excluded during direct examination, the company's own counsel later opened the door to this testimony. Accordingly, the company's assertions that it was “unfairly surprised” and “prejudiced” by the court’s reliance on this testimony lack any basis in fact or law. According to the court, the company was not, as it claims, a "victim of surprise." Rather, the company appears to have been a "victim" of its own trial strategy.