Since May of 2010, SKV partners Shaun Clarke and Dane Ball have represented Robert Kaluza, a BP “well site leader” on the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig on April 20, 2010, when an explosion killed 11 workers and led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
The government filed 23 federal criminal charges against Mr. Kaluza in New Orleans: 11 felony counts alleging simple negligent manslaughter; 11 felony counts alleging gross negligent manslaughter; and 1 misdemeanor count alleging negligent water pollution under the Clean Water Act.
The defense team obtained a significant victory in December 2013. Following an oral argument by Ball, the district court dismissed the 11 felony counts alleging simple negligent manslaughter because the statute—18 U.S.C. § 1115, sometimes called “seaman’s manslaughter”—applies only to those working in marine operations, not to those working in drilling operations. Clarke then argued the case to a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that unanimously affirmed the dismissal in March 2015.
The defense team then filed motions to dismiss the 11 remaining felony counts alleging gross negligent manslaughter, arguing jurisdictional and other pleading defects. However, on December 2, 2015, the Department of Justice voluntarily requested dismissal of the 11 remaining manslaughter charges. The district court granted that motion.
Trial on the remaining misdemeanor Clean Water Act charge is set for February 16, 2016. Lead defense counsel Shaun Clarke addressed the remaining charge here: http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/14164972-123/by-dropping-manslaughter-charges-governments.
Clarke will lead a trial team that includes Dane Ball and David Gerger of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. SKV partner David Isaak will continue to head the legal research and writing effort at trial.