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Claims against BP contractors dismissed at trial

The Deepwater Horizon rig employed  this blowout preventer stack.

New York Times/File 2010

The Deepwater Horizon rig employed  this blowout preventer stack.

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge conducting a trial to assign fault for the nation’s worst offshore oil spill dismissed claims against a BP contractor and the company that made a key safety device on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the disaster.

After plaintiffs’ attorneys rested their case on Wednesday, US District Judge Carl Barbier ruled there was no evidence that BP’s drilling fluids contractor, M-I LLC, made any decision that led to the blowout of BP’s Macondo well. He dismissed all claims against M-I.

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He also ruled out punitive damages against Cameron International, maker of the blowout preventer on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig, which was rocked by an explosion and fire in 2010 that killed 11 workers and touched off the spill.

The two Houston companies have been bit players at the trial, which has centered on the actions and decisions of employees of the energy giant BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd., and cement contractor Halliburton.

BP, Transocean, and Halliburton made similar requests for Barbier to dismiss gross negligence and punitive damage claims against them, but the judge said he wasn’t ready to rule on them. He is hearing testimony without a jury. BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion in penalties if the judge finds it acted with gross negligence.

Earlier Wednesday, well control expert Calvin Barnhill testified he saw no evidence rig workers sacrificed safety.

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