The US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Thursday heard arguments regarding approval of a class-action settlement agreement between British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] and various individuals and businesses affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Attorneys on both sides urged [AP report] Judge Carl Barbier to approve the settlement agreement, under which BP is expected to pay approximately $7.8 billion to settle the claims against the company. BP also agreed to pay $600 million for the plaintiffs' attorney fees. The judge initially approved the settlement agreement in May, after which thousands of individuals opted out of individually pursuing their claims against BP. Barbier said that the hearing would help him to determine a fair settlement. He also indicated that some of the objections posed during the hearing were not made in good faith. Barbier is expected to rule on the settlement agreement in the next few days.
In May Barbier signed a case management order [JURIST report] outlining the structure for the upcoming trial of Gulf oil spill 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. Barbier gave preliminary approval [JURIST report] to the proposed settlement agreement earlier that month. In April BP and a group of plaintiffs' attorneys sought Barbier's preliminary approval on the settlement, which they had reached [JURIST reports] in March.