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Federal judge outlines Gulf oil spill trial

Judge Carl Barbier for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana signed a case management order [text, PDF] on Wednesday outlining the structure for the upcoming trial of Gulf oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] claims scheduled for January 14, 2013. Barbier divided the trial into two phases. In phase one, or the "incident" phase, the court will address issues arising out of the various parties' conduct leading to the incident and appropriation of their negligence. The "source control" phase of phase two will mainly deal with issues related to the conduct or omissions of British Petroleum (BP), Transocean [corporate websites] and other relevant parties in stopping the oil spill. The "qualification" phase of phase two will address issues concerning the amount of actual oil released. Barbier noted that, at the end of each phase, the court may decide, if appropriate, to issue partial findings of fact as well as conclusion of law. A trial that was supposed to start in February was postponed indefinitely after a settlement between the parties was reached.

Earlier this month, Barbier gave preliminary approval [JURIST report] to a proposed settlement between BP and individuals and businesses adversely affected by the 2010 oil spill. BP and a group of plaintiffs' attorneys sought a preliminary approval from the judge in April on the settlement that they reached [JURIST reports] in March. BP had announced that it will settle with the majority of the spill victims for $7.8 billion which comprised of two agreements. The first one was to resolve economic loss claims while the other to resolve medical claims. The parties reached to the settlement agreement a month after Barbier postponed [JURIST report] the trial to allow the parties more time to reach an agreement.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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