Federal judge outlines schedule for trial designed to assign percentages of fault to BP, Transocean, other companies involved in last year's Gulf oil spill; three-phase trial set to begin in February 2012

NEW ORLEANS , August 12, 2011 () – Federal judge outlines plan for 2012 trial over rig explosion, Gulf oil spill

A federal judge on Friday outlined his plan for conducting a trial designed to assign percentages of fault to the companies sued over last year's deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and Gulf oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who oversees tens of thousands of claims spawned by the disaster, said the trial scheduled to start Feb. 27, 2012, will be held in three phases.

The first phase will focus on causes of the well blowout, rig blast and release of oil. Barbier called this the "incident phase."

The second phase deals with efforts to stop the gusher and quantify how much oil spilled from the well owned by BP PLC. The third phase will include testimony about spill cleanup.

Barbier will preside over the trial without a jury. The proceedings are expected to last several months.

Besides apportioning fault, the trial also is designed to determine whether rig owner Transocean can limit what it pays claimants under maritime law.

Trial preparations have included depositions by 176 witnesses and generated more than five million pages of documents shared among the parties, a BP lawyer said during Friday's hearing.

"I think we've all made good progress here," Barbier said.

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