BP wins delay of Gulf spill trial until 2013

Thu May 3, 2012 5:35pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A trial to assign blame and damages that could total tens of billions of dollars for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been put off until January, in a setback for the U.S. government, which wanted to try its case this summer.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans on Thursday scheduled a trial for January 14, 2013, more than 10 months after it had originally been scheduled.

The decision means the federal government and Gulf Coast states, which also wanted a summer trial, may have to wait longer to recover money from BP Plc and its drilling partners.

It is unclear how the new timetable will affect strategy, or whether it might spur the federal government to press harder for settlements and help local residents seeking money for cleanup or restoration.

"This may spur the government to settle," said Edward Sherman, a professor at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. "The Obama administration may want to show its stuff before the November elections."

However, Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor specializing in product liability, said the delay might make it harder for governments to reach acceptable settlements.

"A delay could give the governments more time to strengthen their bargaining positions, but they lose leverage that comes with having a trial scheduled in the near term," he said.

$7.8 BILLION SETTLEMENT WINS INITIAL OK   Continued...

 
Oil is burned off the surface of the water near the source of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Celano