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Financial Times: BP: The Case of the Century

February 24, 2012

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The Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 caused the world's largest offshore oil spill. It has also led to a mammoth legal action, as tens of thousands of plaintiffs--and the US government--fight for compensation, writes Ed Crooks.

In New Orleans people know how to let their hair down, even when the stakes are high. The federal court that has been hearing the massive case to decide civil penalties and damages for the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is in an austere modernist building, dating from the 1960s, but it is only a short walk from the historic tourist trap of the French Quarter. The distinctive atmosphere of the Big Easy, as much Caribbean as it is American, permeates even here.

At pre-trial hearings, the mood among the attorneys is convivial, even jokey at times. Some of them have been meeting at the court for a year and a half, and they know each other pretty well. At one session, the magistrate judge opens by thanking the lawyers for the plaintiffs and for BP, who are on opposing sides of the case, for throwing such a good party the previous night. Social events have been a regular feature of the months leading up to the trial.

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