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BP Oil Spill Trial Delayed Until February 2013

NEW ORLEANS -- To avoid disruptions from the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, a federal judge in New Orleans has postponed the trial for claims spawned by BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Associated Press reported.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier announced during a hearing Friday that he is moving back the start of the trial from Jan. 14 to Feb. 25. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 3 at the Superdome. Mardi Gras is Feb. 12, with parades beginning weeks earlier.

The trial is designed to identify the causes of BP's deadly well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies involved, according to the news outlet.

Barbier, however, refused to postpone a Nov. 1 deadline for businesses and individuals to opt out of a multibillion dollar settlement between BP and private plaintiffs' attorneys over economic damage claims from the spill. He also said he won't delay a Nov. 8 fairness hearing on the proposed settlement.

Some plaintiffs' attorneys who didn't have a hand in brokering the deal had urged Barbier to extend the opt-out deadline, saying their clients need more time to decide whether it's in their best interest to participate. Barbier said some claimants or their lawyers have a "fundamental misunderstanding" about how the process works.

"There is clearly sufficient -- more than sufficient -- transparency in this settlement," he said.

As of Oct. 19, more than 200 people and groups formally objected to the deal, while 983 potential claimants had asked to opt out. More than 100,000 plaintiffs could benefit from the deal, the Associated Press report stated.

BP, which estimates it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve claims through the uncapped settlement, agreed to continue paying claims though a court-supervised process before the judge decides whether to give final approval.

Barbier said claimants have been paid or received offers worth a total of roughly $1.1 billion since the court-supervised process replaced the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

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