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Chesapeake Louisiana, L.P. v. Innovative Wellsite Systems Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport

January 23, 2015

CHESAPEAKE LOUISIANA, L.P., ET AL
v.
INNOVATIVE WELLSITE SYSTEMS INC., ET AL

MEMORANDUM ORDER

S. MAURICE HICKS, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court are three motions in limine, all relating to the admissibility of subsequent remedial measures: (1) Motion in Limine to Allow Evidence of Subsequent Remedial Measures (Record Document 161) filed by Defendants China Petroleum Technology & Development Company ("CPTDC") and Jiangsu Jinshi Machinery Group Company, Ltd. ("JMP"); (2) Motion in Limine to Allow Evidence of Post-Blowout Remedial Measures and Operational Changes (Record Document 162) filed by Defendant Petroleum Products & Services, Inc. d/b/a Wellhead Distributors International ("WDI"); and (3) Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence Regarding the Barrier Philosophy and Related Subsequent Remedial Measures (Record Document 183) filed by Plaintiffs Chesapeake Louisiana, L.P., Chesapeake Operating, Inc. ("COI"), Larchmont Resources, L.L.C., Ivory Working Interest, L.P., Comstock Oil & Gas-Louisiana, L.L.C., Petrohawk Properties, L.P., PXP Louisiana L.L.C., Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, Subscribing to Certificates of Insurance Nos. 205041, 205043, JLWCTF3359, JLWCTF3360, and BD-CJP-388, Navigators Insurance Company, Houston Casualty Company, and Gotham Insurance Company ("Plaintiffs").[1] All of the motions are opposed. For the reasons which follow, this Court hereby EXCLUDES all evidence relating to the Barrier Philosophy and Immediate Action Plan ("Barrier Memorandum") and the Safety Stand Down meeting.

The Sumner 25 Well sustained a blowout on November 18, 2009. On November 25, 2009, COI reduced its barrier philosophy to a written policy, i.e., the Barrier Memorandum. The overview of the memorandum reads:

The purpose of this memorandum is to establish clear requirements with respect to barrier philosophy and to construct a list of wells requiring immediate action. The goal of this document is to establish appropriate operational guidelines to further limit the chance of well control incidents. The Haynesville East barrier guidelines will require two barriers where a SICP greater than 6, 000 psi is anticipated.

Record Document 161, Exhibit A. The Barrier Memorandum explains COI's philosophy on the use of barriers in wells, lists the types of acceptable barriers, explains the suggested operational procedures, and lists those wells in the Haynesville Shale requiring immediate action.

On December 11, 2009, COI held a Safety Stand Down meeting at its location in Sligo, Louisiana, which included a PowerPoint presentation. The meeting was held as a direct result of the recent injuries and fatalities at well sites, including the Sumner 25 well. The presentation included operational changes and steps that should be taken to increase worker safety during future well procedures. See Record Document 186 (SEALED).

All parties agree that the Barrier Memorandum and other operational changes made by Plaintiffs after the Sumner 25 well control event are subsequent remedial measures under Federal Rule of Evidence 407, which provides:

When measures are taken that would have made an earlier injury or harm less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove:
• negligence;
• culpable conduct;
• a defect in a product or its design; or
• a need for a warning or instruction.
But the court may admit this evidence for another purpose, such as impeachment or-if disputed-proving ownership, control, or the feasibility of precautionary measures.

F.R.E. 407. Notwithstanding, Defendants argue that the Barrier Memorandum and other operational changes are admissible ...


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