Posts Tagged ‘Appleman’

BP Engineer’s Trial ‘Stark Reminder’ About Preserving Evidence, Sutherland Lawyers Write in Commentary

Posted on: December 18th, 2013

HOUSTON – Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP lawyers Carter Williams and Thomas Appleman co-authored a commentary on essential lessons from the trial of a BP engineer who deleted text messages related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.

Their column, “BP engineer’s trial shows worst outcome of failure to preserve evidence,” appeared on the Houston Chronicle’s popular “Fuel Fix” blog. The column discusses the issues involved in the government’s successful obstruction case against former Kurt Mix, the BP engineer who was involved in efforts to stop the flow of leaking oil. A jury convicted Mix of one charge that he deleted messages to obstruct a federal investigation into the spill. He was acquitted of a second charge.

“The trial provides a stark reminder that the consequences of failing to preserve evidence can be much more severe than adverse inferences and/or employee disciplinary actions,” the attorneys wrote. According to the government indictment, BP sent at least 10 notices to employees warning them that destroying evidence related to the spill could lead to prosecution.

Although obstruction charges rarely result from failure to preserve evidence related to civil suits, “the risks increase whenever the litigation arises out of regulated activity or other circumstances likely to lead to congressional, agency, or grand jury proceedings. In such cases, counsel should ensure that their clients appreciate the additional risks associated with a failure to preserve data,” Mr. Williams and Mr. Appleman wrote.

Both attorneys, working in the Houston office, were on the trial team representing defendant drilling contractor Transocean in the multidistrict litigation arising from the oil spill, with Williams managing much of the case’s massive discovery efforts. Sutherland’s attorneys in Austin and Houston represent clients in Texas and around the world in litigation, energy, transactional, regulatory, environmental and intellectual property matters.