* Trial delayed to March 5 from Feb. 27
* BP, local businesses plan more talks
By Tom Bergin and Jonathan Stempel
LONDON/NEW ORLEANS, Feb 26 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 Feb. 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
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
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.
But the U.S. government has sued BP and others for Clean
Water Act and other federal violations, which could result in
fines totaling tens of billions of dollars. Gulf states are also
seeking compensation for their losses.
Apart from BP, which owned 65 percent of the Macondo well,
the main defendants are Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean
Ltd, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, and
Houston-based Halliburton Co, which provided cementing
services for the well. They are also suing each other. Several
other companies are also involved in the trial.
BP said earlier this month it had set aside $6.1 billion to
cover claims by businesses. Lawyers for those plaintiffs said
the amount was too low to cover their clients' actual losses,
and that BP should also award punitive damages, which the oil
company believes are not warranted.
BP has accepted responsibility for the disaster. It has
projected its total legal and cleanup costs at roughly $43
Chief Executive Robert Dudley has said BP is willing to
settle for reasonable terms, and many industry analysts and
experts say a quick settlement is in the London-based oil
The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater
Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District
Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179.