Today a Louisiana judge accepted the guilty plea of oil giant British Petroleum in connection with the April 2010 explosion of its Deepwater Horizon platform that killed 11 workers, forcing BP to pay fine of $4 billion. But that doesn't mean BP's liability has been fully determined — indeed, it doesn't encompass the massive oil spill and widespread contamination that the Deepwater explosion led to. The fines for private damages are currently in flux: in December 2012, a federal court approved a $7.8 billion settlement for individuals injured by or whose property was damaged in the oil spill, but a little over a week ago the decision was held up on an appeal after a lawyer for one of the several thousand plaintiffs argued that the process for claiming damages was too slow. (Individual settlements with the families of the 11 victims have not been disclosed.)
The biggest question now, though, is what will happen during the jury-less civil trial against BP, scheduled to commence on February 25. Reuters called the trial "massive" in scope, as it takes into account BP's total liability to the environment in the explosion and spill. While it's unclear if the trial would seriously strain BP's deep pockets, the company is definitely close to exceeding its initial relief budget of $42 billion, which restoration efforts and individual claims have already eaten into.
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