Judge Carl Barbier of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] postponed the trial over the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] Monday, hours before it was set to begin, in order to give British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] more time to reach a settlement agreement. Barbier adjourned [UPI report] the start of this multi-billion dollar trial after a conference call between the parties a week earlier, in hopes that talks between the parties could produce a settlement. BP could be liable for up to $52 billion in what was the largest accidental oil spill in history, damaging marine life and harming the tourism industry. BP denies gross negligence and urges the court to hold both Transocean [corporate website] and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. jointly liable for their respective roles as owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig and pourer of the concrete that lined the oil well which was destroyed, causing the oil spill. Both BP and Transocean are defendants in the case. If a settlement is not reached, the trial could span the next two years.
Last month, Barbier issued an order [JURIST report] that BP will be held liable for a portion of the damages owed by Transocean stemming from the oil spill. BP will be required to indemnify Transocean against damages created by the pollution itself that are awarded throughout the litigation [materials] pending against it. BP will not be required to pay an punitive damages or civil fines as a result of these suits. The court did not rule as to whether BP or Transocean would be held strictly liable, negligent or grossly negligent for the equipment failure and subsequent oil spill that created the pollution. Transocean is the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that was contracted by BP, which subsequently caused the oil spill. This ruling is separate from a ruling issued [JURIST report] by Barbier in August, which permits punitive damages against BP, but that ruling pertained to claims brought against BP directly.