BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill trial delayed for a week

The civil trial over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, which was due to start in New Orleans on Monday, has been delayed for a week, to allow for further talks on a settlement. The rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, killing 11 workers and leaking four million barrels of oil from BP’s Macondo well.

The trial is to resolve claims for damages and civil penalties. BP has so far paid $7.5bn in clean-up costs and compensation. In a joint statement, BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee – a group of lawyers representing victims of the spill, confirmed that the trial would now start on 5 March. “This adjournment is intended to allow BP and the PSC more time to continue settlement discussions and attempt to reach an agreement,” the statement said.

“BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. There can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to a settlement agreement,” the statement added.

One lawyer close to the case told the BBC that the different parties were still far apart in negotiations over settlements.

The spill released more than four million barrels of crude oil from BP’s Macondo well.

BP and its partners face the threat of tens of billions of dollars in fines and penalties if found grossly negligent in the case.

The UK firm is expected to blame its main contractor, Halliburton, which is a fellow defendant.

US President Barack Obama called the spill “the worst environmental disaster the nation has ever faced”.

It took 85 days to permanently stop the release of crude oil.

Fellow contractor Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, is also a defendant in the case.

Judge Carl Barbier, an expert in maritime law, consolidated hundreds of spill-related lawsuits into a single case.

He is tasked with determining how much of the blame rests with each party and whether punitive damages should be imposed.