The first stage of the US trial over the Deepwater Horizon disaster has concluded a month earlier than expected.
The court hearing on who was to blame for the Gulf of Mexico explosion ended just days before the third anniversary of the catastrophe, which killed 11 people and caused the worst offshore oil spill in the US.
The first phase, which started two months ago, focused on where responsibility lay for the incident on April 20, 2010, with operator BP and contractors Transocean and Halliburton in the dock.
US district judge Carl Barbier has now allocated 80 days for the determination of findings and conclusions, before the trial resumes in September.
The second stage will focus on the amount of oil spilled so the level of damages can be decided.
At the conclusion of the first phase in New Orleans, Mr Barbier said: “I appreciate the fact we were able to complete this trial in two months rather than the three months everyone projected when this began.”
BP has already incurred more than £16.5billion in spill-related expenses and has estimated it will pay £29billion to fully resolve its liability for the disaster.
In December Mr Barbier gave final approval to a settlement between BP and Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee lawyers representing gulf coast businesses and residents who claim the spill cost them money.
BP estimates it will pay roughly £5.8billion to resolve tens of thousands of these claims, but the deal does not have a cap. It resolved a government criminal investigation by agreeing to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay £2.75billion in criminal penalties.
Transocean reached a separate settlement with the government.
BP, meanwhile, argues the government’s estimate of how much oil spewed from the well – more than 200million gallons – is inflated by at least 20%. Pollution penalties are based on how many barrels spilled.