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BP oil spill legal case delayed

A multibillion-dollar legal case that was due to open on Monday into the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster has been put back a week, BP said.

The case, which could last until 2014, will begin on Monday March 5, the company said.

BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (PSC) confirmed that the US District Court had adjourned the start of the Deepwater Horizon multi-district litigation civil trial by a week. They said: "This adjournment is intended to allow BP and the PSC more time to continue settlement discussions and attempt to reach an agreement.

"BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. There can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to a settlement agreement. A further announcement will be made as appropriate."

Earlier, BP chief executive Bob Dudley said the oil giant was hopeful of doing "some deals" on the details of the case but otherwise it was ready for a drawn-out battle.

The group will be in the dock in New Orleans alongside contractors Halliburton and Transocean as a single judge decides who was to blame for what happened when the Gulf of Mexico rig exploded, claiming the lives of 11 men and triggering the biggest oil spill in US history.

BP will face the wrath of the US Federal Government, several states, various local government authorities and hundreds of independent plaintiffs in a hearing before Federal Judge Carl Barbier.

On top of millions of pounds of legal fees, BP and the contractors could face a penalty of up to 17.6 billion US dollars (£11.1 billion) for water pollution alone if the court finds gross negligence was at play.

Mr Dudley told the Sunday Telegraph: "We have to remember we are a business that invests in decade-long cycles. If (the trial) goes to 2013 or 2014, in the history of BP and the way the energy industry works we just have to think much longer term.

"Hopefully we will reach some agreements and we will be able to reduce the uncertainty and move forward. But the appeals process has various different branches it could go down in terms of time so it could be a lot longer than that (2014)."

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