NEW ORLEANS, April 25 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday said he may grant preliminary approval to billions of dollars in civil claim settlements stemming BP Plc's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
"Frankly, I'm leaning in favor", said U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, referring to his granting preliminary approval to BP's agreement to pay $7.8 billion to resolve economic, property and medical claims so more than 100,000 individuals and businesses can decide whether to opt out.
The comment came during a hearing in New Orleans.
The vast civil litigation stems from a blowout of BP's deepwater Macondo well two years ago that caused deadly fires and explosions aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 men.
The resulting offshore oil spill was the largest in U.S. history, with more than 4 million barrels of oil spilling into the basin before BP capped the well in mid-July 2010.
Barbier said on Wednesday he would issue a written order on preliminary approval in several days, but November will be the earliest he will consider final approval.
BP still faces tens of billions of dollars of potential claims from the U.S. government, states along the Gulf Coast, and drilling partners Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which provided well cementing services.
Rick Godfrey, one of BP's attorneys, said that initial approval is needed to allow the company to send notices to those who stand to be compensated and keep that process going.
"The only question before the court is whether the settlement is reasonably fair and adequate to justify sending out notices," Godfrey said.
(Reporting by Kathy Finn; additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)
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