Cameron International Corp. (CAM) won dismissal from all claims arising from BP Plc’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill after a judge said there was no evidence showing the company was at fault for the disaster.
Cameron, which made the so-called blowout preventer designed to stop explosions in BP’s oil well, was named in multiple lawsuits claiming the equipment was defective. Witnesses testifying at a New Orleans trial over fault for the disaster have said the blowout preventer wasn’t properly maintained by the Transocean (RIG) Ltd. crew manning the drill rig.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans had earlier ruled out punitive damages against Houston-based Cameron, finding no proof of gross negligence. He dismissed all remaining claims yesterday.
“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, to the casualty,” Barbier said.
The blowout of the deep-water Macondo well off the coast of Louisiana sent more than 4 million barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 people. The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP, Transocean and Halliburton Co. (HAL), which provided cement services.
Jeff Altamari, a spokesman for Houston-based Cameron, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on the judge’s ruling. Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, declined to comment.
A trial over liability for the spill and explosion began Feb. 25 in federal court in New Orleans. Barbier will determine responsibility for the disaster and whether any of the companies acted with willful or wanton misconduct or reckless indifference -- the legal requirement for establishing gross negligence.
If BP is found grossly negligent, it may be liable for more than $17 billion in pollution fines, as well as punitive damages to claimants who weren’t part of an $8.5 billion settlement of lawsuits. For Transocean and Halliburton, a similar finding would mean they could face punitive-damages awards.
The government and spill victims contend BP (BP/) was over budget and behind schedule on the Macondo well, prompting the company to cut corners and ignore safety tests showing the well was unstable.
They also allege Halliburton’s cement job was defective and Transocean employees made a series of missteps on the rig, including disabling safety systems, failing to properly maintain the installation and not providing adequate training for its crew.
Cameron was sued because its equipment didn’t stop the blowout. Barbier found the evidence presented at trial didn’t establish the company improperly designed or manufactured the safety system. Witnesses testified the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer suffered from faulty wiring and a dead battery.
“The evidence is directed not at Cameron itself but rather at Cameron’s customers,” BP and Transocean, Barbier said in court yesterday.
BP and Transocean are “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,” he said.
The other defendants “also made decisions as to whether and when to upgrade the blowout preventer,” the judge added.
Last month, Barbier also threw out all claims against M-I Swaco, a Schulmberger Ltd. (SLB) unit that provided the rig’s drilling fluids. The judge concluded the government and spill victims presented no evidence the company played any role in the disaster.
The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 10-md-02179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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