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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

First BP Oil Spill Trial Concludes

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Phase one of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill trial has ended, three days shy of the third anniversary of the explosion that set off the worst oil spill in history.

The first phase was to apportion blame among BP and its contractors, including Halliburton, which made the cement used to seal the Macondo well; and Transocean the owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Phase two, slated to begin in September, will seek to determine how much oil was spilled.

Phase one was expected to take three months, but lasted for two.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Wednesday congratulated counsel for both sides.

"I think the quality of the lawyering and the professionalism and civility with which this case has been tried is exemplary, and I know I appreciate it. It's made my job easier," Barbier said.

"Also, I appreciate the fact that we were able to complete this trial in two months rather than the three months that everyone projected when we first began. So again, I do appreciate the efforts."

The trial was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, Gulf Coast states and private plaintiffs.

After attorneys for BP rested their case Wednesday, plaintiffs' attorneys declined rebuttal, and the trial came to a close. There were no closing arguments.

The April 20, 2010 explosion killed 11 people and dumped about 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Barbier gave the parties 80 days to file briefs. Rulings are not expected for months.

"I don't know if we need to set anything in stone today," Barbier said as he set the timeline for filing briefs.

"There's a huge amount of evidence, obviously, in this case, including, of course, the last eight weeks of trial," Barbier said.

Barbier's rulings will set precedents for how trials to come with be handled.

Hundreds of new lawsuits against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other contractors were filed in Federal Court this week as the deadline to file-oil spill lawsuits approached. Many were from people or businesses that do not want to participate in the settlement, do not qualify, or who presented claims to BP and were ignored or rejected. Their statute of limitations expires tonight.

BP pleaded guilty to manslaughter and environmental crimes last year, and agreed to pay the Justice Department a $4 billion settlement which is separate from the trial that just ended.

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