More than 100,000 people and 549 cases will be consolidated into a massive three-phase trial starting next year for BP and other companies involved in the Macondo well blowout that caused the Gulf oil spill.

The Times-Picayune reports that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier says the trial will proceed as scheduled starting Feb. 27, 2012:

The initial “incident phase” of the trial will examine the role of the various defendants in the loss of well control, the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the initiation of the flow of oil.

Although Barbier has not said how long the initial phase might last, several parties to the oil spill litigation contemplated in briefs this spring that it would probably take several months.

After a break, the court would begin a second phase of the trial focusing on efforts to control and shut down the well and how much oil was actually lost.

A third phase would deal with other liability issues, such as efforts to skim and burn the oil, the use of dispersants and boom.

Getting to a February 2012 trial has required monumental effort on the part of scores of attorneys involved in the case. Some 176 depositions have been taken over the past six months, with multiple depositions going on each day and individual depositions often lasting two days and generating hundreds of pages of transcripts. In June, attorneys and court officials traveled to London to depose BP executives.

Read more here.

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