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Oil Spill Defendants Continue to Play Blame Game

The finger-pointing game over the still-gushing oil disaster came full circle on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Cameron International Corp. completed the circle when CEO Jack Moore laid the blame elsewhere in trying to explain to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee what caused the April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Moore, whose company supplied the blowout preventers that allegedly failed, testified that it created the safety devices pursuant to BP Plc's specifications.

That testimony came a day after senior executives with BP, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. andTransocean Ltd. -- the three other main defendants in the oil spill litigation -- had already blamed each other in testimony before two Senate committees.

BP America Chairman Lamar McKay said that, although BP is responsible for cleaning up the oil mess because it was operating the rig, the failure of the safety device was Transocean's responsibility because it owned the rig.

Not so, countered Transocean CEO Steven Newman, who said that drilling projects "begin and end" with the operator -- in this case, BP -- and that a cementing job by Halliburton might have been a factor in the accident.

But Halliburton executive Timothy Probert testified that his company's cementing job was done to BP's specifications.

The blame game has at least one plaintiffs lawyer bracing for a long, heated battle. "Either all of the potential liable parties will make an agreement and make an effort to pay claims, or they'll fight it out and be shooting at each other," said Tony Buzbee of Houston's Buzbee Law Firm, which has seven oil suits and a dozen more in the pipeline. "I think they'll fight it out. It's already clear based on the congressional testimony."

In particular, "BP is working hard to place blame on everyone," Buzbee said, adding, "BP is going to make Christmas this year very good for a lot of defense lawyers."

 

Tresa Baldas
National Law Journal
May 13, 2010