NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The first BP employees to be deposed this month for the many civil lawsuits resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster will testify in New Orleans – not in Houston, as BP wanted. Three employee witnesses who live in the United Kingdom, however, will be deposed there, according to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is handling the litigation.
“After reviewing submissions by plaintiffs’ counsel and counsel for BP … the court has determined that the initial round of depositions for BP employees should take place in New Orleans,” Barbier wrote in an order he handed down Monday.
BP wanted to depose its workers in Houston, claiming the New Orleans Federal Court does not have jurisdiction over its workers and cannot subpoena them to appear.
Judge Barbier disagreed.
“The court finds that it indeed does have the authority to implement case management techniques as the MDL transferee court, including making the determination of where depositions should be taken,” he wrote in the 4-page order.
Barbier also disagreed with BP’s claim that asking its employees to travel to New Orleans would be inconvenient.
“BP is a large international corporation engaged in business on several continents, whose employees are routinely required to engage in significant travel, including to and through South Louisiana, which is a gateway to much of the offshore oil and gas exploration and production operations,” Barbier wrote.
Attorneys for plaintiffs wanted the depositions taken in New Orleans, which has been deemed the “center of gravity” for the litigation. That designation came last summer from the panel of federal judges who determined New Orleans was the best venue for the consolidated litigation stemming from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
The explosion killed 11 workers and unleashed the worst oil spill in history.
The first round of BP employee depositions will include 18 employees who live in Texas, Alaska and the United Kingdom.
The depositions will be held behind closed doors, without access for the public or the press, according to Fuelfix.com, a daily report on the energy business.