BP oil spill trial postponed

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The trial to determine civil liability for the April 2010 oil spill that was scheduled to begin in Louisiana federal court on Monday has been postponed, CNN reports.

The trial will be delayed a week, according to CNN.

Among the defendants are BP, rig owner Transocean, construction contractor Halliburton, and other firms associated with the project.

The thousands of plaintiffs include fishermen, hotel owners, and other Gulf Coast residents.

The Washington Post reports that District Court Judge Carl Barbier has allotted a total of 6 hours 40 minutes for 11 opening statements from multiple plaintiffs. More than 300 depositions and 72 million pages of documents have been produced, according to one lawyer involved in the case.

Due to its complexity, Barbier has ordered that the case be broken down into three phases.

The first phase will focus on responsibility for the accident itself. The second will address efforts to contain the spill and the exact quantity of oil released. The third phase will examine the response to the disaster and the clean-up effort.

The final payouts that BP and the other firms involved will owe in civil penalties and to the victims are still largely an open question. BP could end up paying roughly $17 billion in civil penalties alone, to go along with the tens of billions more that it will likely owe the victims, said Edward Sherman, a professor at Tulane Law School in Louisiana.

It is uncertain as to how long the trial will last. Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst at Raymond James, said the case could stretch into 2014 before any appeals are taken into account.

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