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Deepwater Horizon trial: settlements and another postponement

The Deepwater Horizon oil platform ablaze on April 21, 2010. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

Last week lawyers for the plaintiffs and BP agreed on a proposed $7.8 billion settlement which would compensate thousands of individuals and businesses affected by the oil spill.

Judge Carl J. Barbier of Federal District Court in New Orleans issued an order late Friday night stating that the two sides “have reached an agreement on the terms of a proposed class settlement which will be submitted to the court,” and announcing that the first phase of the trial, scheduled to begin on Monday, is adjourned indefinitely while the next steps are worked out.

The terms of the proposed settlement were not made public and agreement can be terminated by either party if “definitive and fully documented agreements” are not completed within 45 days. Plaintiffs not satisfied with the terms can opt out of the settlement.

This proposed settlement does not affect the lawsuits filed by the US and state governments in the case.

The federal government, and the state governments of Louisiana and Alabama, are also pursuing claims, although the federal government is believed to be actively negotiating with BP to reach a deal over civilian fines for environmental damage done during the spill. If BP is found guilty of gross negligence those fines could reach $17bn.

Nor does it end the lawsuits between BP and the other companies involved in Deepwater Horizon.

BP is in a legal battle with the other companies that were involved in the runaway well: Transocean, which owned the oil rig, and Halliburton, which cemented the well. Those legal brawls, over the share of the costs of covering those damages, could continue even after the claims have settled.

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