BP oil spill trial delayed for settlement talks

Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:58am EST
 
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By Tom Bergin and Jonathan Stempel

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

Less than 24 hours before the case was set to start in a New Orleans federal court, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier pushed back the date to March 5 from February 27.

The delay allows further talks between BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (PSC), which represents condominium owners, fishermen, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others who say their livelihoods were damaged by the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill.

Eleven people were killed, 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.

The London-based oil company said there was no assurance that the talks would lead to a settlement.

Bloomberg news agency reported on Monday that BP and the plaintiffs were discussing a $14 billion settlement that was nearing completion. It cited three people familiar with the talks.

A settlement between BP and the businesses would remove a significant portion of the complex litigation, the trial of which was expected to take nearly a year. It could also be a key step toward reaching a global settlement with its drilling partners, and with federal and state governments.   Continued...