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Feds seek summer trial date for Gulf spill claims

Associated Press Published: May 1, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Justice Department is urging a federal judge to set a new trial date for no later than this summer for government claims against BP over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a court filing Tuesday, government lawyers say a class-action settlement agreement between the oil giant and a team of plaintiffs' attorneys shouldn't delay a trial for claims that aren't covered by the proposed deal.

London-based BP PLC has asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to set a January 2013 trial date for remaining claims.

"BP's proposed delay would render these substantial public interests subservient to BP's corporate interest in resolving its litigation exposure to private party litigants," Justice Department attorneys wrote. "This private party settlement process, however, need not preclude trial of the broader government claims, as the processes can and should proceed in tandem."

The state of Alabama also on Tuesday asked Barbier to set a new trial for this summer. The judge has scheduled a meeting Thursday behind closed doors to discuss a new trial date.

Meanwhile, Barbier is expected to decide this week whether to preliminarily approve the settlement agreement. But he would hold a "fairness hearing" on the proposal later this year before giving it his final approval.

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