BP oil spill trial delayed amid settlement talks

BP Plc and plaintiffs suing the British oil giant over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are in discussions on a $14-billion out-of-court settlement, Bloomberg today reported, citing three people familiar with the talks.

The London-based oil company would agree to close down its $20-billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility and shift the remaining $14 billion to the litigants, said the news agency.

In June 2010, BP had agreed to create a $20-billion independently administered fund to pay all legitimate claims arising from its Deepwater Horizon rig that blew in April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and created the worst oil spill in the US history. (See: BP agrees to $20 billion fund for oil spill claims: report)

Proceedings of the civil trial were scheduled to begin today, but yesterday, Judge Carl Barbier of Federal District Court issued an order giving the parties until 5 March to allow them to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

BP and the plaintiffs' lawyers issued a joint statement saying that they had been given ''more time to continue settlement discussions and attempt to reach an agreement'' but cautioned that ''there can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to a settlement agreement.''

BP has already paid spill victims about $6 billion so far from the $20-billion fund in order that those affected by the spill could receive compensation more quickly than by pursuing lawsuits.