BP oil spill trial delayed for settlement talks

Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:13pm EST
 
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By Tom Bergin and Jonathan Stempel

LONDON/NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - BP Plc has delayed by one week the start of a massive trial to decide who should pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, to allow more time to cut a deal with tens of thousands of businesses and individuals affected by the disaster.

In a statement on Sunday, BP said the start date for the trial in New Orleans federal court has been pushed back to March 5 from February 27.

The Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (PSC) represents fishermen, hoteliers, condominium owners and other local businesses and individuals who say their livelihoods were damaged by the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill.

Eleven people died, and 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed from the mile-deep Macondo oil well, in by far the worst offshore U.S. oil spill.

"BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill," BP said in a statement.

A BP spokeswoman declined to comment further on the talks. Lawyers for BP and the steering committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which is also suing BP, declined to comment.

In an order dated Sunday, Barbier said the adjournment was appropriate "for reasons of judicial efficiency and to allow the parties to make further progress in their settlement discussions."

A BP settlement with the businesses would remove a significant portion of the complex litigation, the trial of which was expected to take nearly a year.   Continued...

 
A BP petrol station sign is seen at dawn in west London, October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville