BP has reached an agreement with counsel for plaintiffs suing over the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to a court order on Friday, but the company still faces claims by the US government and drilling partners.
US District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the litigation, said in the order that the proposed terms of a class settlement would be submitted to the court for approval, Reuters reported late Friday evening.
He also adjourned the first phase of the trial over the spill, which was scheduled to begin on 5 March.
Barbier had previously delayed the start of the trial to allow a group called the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee to continue to negotiate a settlement with BP.
The estimated $7.8 billion settlement, according to BP, purports to resolve the “substantial majority of legitimate economic loss and medical claims” related to the spill.
“From the beginning, BP stepped up to meet our obligations to the communities in the Gulf Coast region, and we’ve worked hard to deliver on that commitment for nearly two years,” BP Group chief executive Bob Dudley said.
“The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast.”
The committee represents the interests of fisherman and businesses who say their livelihoods were damaged by the 20 April 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent spill.
Eleven people were killed and 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed from the mile-deep Macondo oil well in by far the worst offshore US oil spill.
A settlement would remove a significant portion of the complex case, but it would not put an end to BP's exposure.
The oil giant still faces claims by the US government, which is pursuing violations of the Clean Water Act and other laws, which could result in fines totalling billions of dollars.
Earlier this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder told lawmakers that the Justice Department was prepared to go to trial.