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BP begins to put spill behind w/ settlement

March 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
BP has now settled lawsuits filed by more than 100,000 victims over the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

However, this does not mean the legal issues are over. The oil giant is expected to pay out at least $7.8 billion. That amounts to the largest class-action settlements ever.

The court overseeing the cases will create a way to oversee the payouts. The victims include fishermen who lost work, cleanup workers who got sick and others who claimed harm from the company's April 20, 2010 disaster.

There is also the possibility of more lawsuits from people unhappy with the payout process.

The Gulf Coast disaster was the worst offshore spill in U.S. history. The accident destroyed a drilling rig called the Deepwater Horizon, killed 11 workers, spilled an estimated 200 million gallons of oil and disrupted thousands of Gulf Coast lives. The spill soiled sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, killed wildlife and closed vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.

In January 2011, a presidential commission found that the spill was caused by time-saving and money-saving decisions by BP, Halliburton and Transocean that resulted in unacceptable risk. But the panel also concluded that the mistakes were the result of systemic problems, not necessarily the fault of any one individual.

In September 2011, however, a team of Coast Guard officials and federal regulators issued a report that concluded BP bears ultimate responsibility for the spill. The report found BP violated federal regulations, ignored crucial warnings and made bad decisions during the cementing of the well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has repeatedly said it accepts some responsibility for the spill and will pay what it owes, while urging other companies to pay their share.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.