February 7, 2012 / 9:20 PM / 8 years ago

BP can't keep settlements out of oil spill trial

* BP request premature -judge

* Ruling is a victory for Halliburton

* Halliburton: Settlements could reflect bias in BP favor

* BP has settled with Anadarko, MOEX, Cameron, Weatherford

By Jonathan Stempel

Feb 7 (Reuters) - A federal judge rejected BP Plc’s effort to keep evidence about settlements out of the upcoming trial to decide who is responsible for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, scheduled to preside in a non-jury trial beginning Feb. 27, is a victory for Halliburton Co, which had provided cementing services for the Macondo oil well.

The Houston-based company had argued that evidence of settlements or negotiations could show the settling companies’ potential bias in BP’s favor, which Halliburton could then use in its defense.

BP countered that excluding such information was consistent with federal rules on evidence, and that such details are irrelevant to establishing liability.

Barbier concluded that the London-based oil company’s request was premature, even though there were “plausible scenarios” in which settlement evidence could reflect bias.

“The proper course is to wait until any settlement evidence is actually sought to be introduced to determine admissibility,” he wrote.

BP has reached settlements with two partners in the Macondo well: $4 billion with Anadarko Petroleum Corp, and $1.065 billion with Mitsui & Co’s MOEX unit.

It also reached settlements of $250 million with Cameron International Corp, which made a blowout preventer, and $75 million with Weatherford International Ltd , which made a float collar used in cementing and which controls the flow of drilling fluids.

Halliburton has not settled with BP. Transocean Ltd , which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded on April 20, 2010, also has not settled.

Earlier on Tuesday, BP reported a higher quarterly profit and raised its dividend for the first time since the spill.

Chief Executive Bob Dudley said BP retains a “bias for settling” spill litigation but is preparing vigorously for trial.

The Gulf of Mexico disaster caused 11 deaths and the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179.

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