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BP 2010 Oil Spill Settlement: A Timeline of Litigation

BP Settles Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Claim for $18.7 Billion 2:34

BP has reached a $18.7 billion settlement to end five years of litigation following the devastating 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It is the largest settlement with a single entity in U.S. history, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Here's a timeline of key events leading up to Thursday's major announcement:

April 20, 2010 — Rig explodes

An explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig at the Macondo exploration well kills 11 workers and releases millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The well is capped in mid-July. BP ultimately sets aside $42 billion to pay for cleanup costs, damages and penalties.

RELATED: Five Years After BP Spill, Questions Linger in the Gulf

November 2012 — Criminal case settled

BP agrees to pay $4.5 billion in fines and other penalties and pleads guilty to 14 criminal charges. The U.S. government bans BP from new federal contracts, imperiling the company's role as a top U.S. offshore oil producer and No. 1 military fuel supplier. Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice files criminal charges against three BP employees in connection with the accident.

December 2012 — Class action settled

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier gives final approval to BP's settlement with individuals and businesses claiming to have lost money and property because of the spill. BP initially estimates it will pay $7.8 billion to settle more than 100,000 claims, but the dollar amount is not capped. The company later says the payout may grow substantially, in part because of payouts to many claimants who suffered no harm, and files numerous legal challenges to the agreement.

Image: Fire boats battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, on April 21, 2010.
Fire boats battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21, 2010 handout file photo. U.S. Coast Guard via Reuters

February 2013 — Civil trial begins

Officials from the federal government and several U.S. states begin facing BP in court at a three-phase civil trial over how blame should be apportioned between BP, Transocean Ltd, which owned the drilling rig, and Halliburton Co, which did cement work. Government lawyers urge Barbier to find BP grossly negligent, which could roughly quadruple the amount of fines under the U.S. Clean Water Act.

Sept. 30, 2013 — Second phase of trial begins

The second phase begins to determine how much oil was spilled.

Sept. 4, 2014 — Judge finds BP bears most of the blame

Barbier finds BP "grossly negligent" for its role in the oil spill. He assigns 67 percent of the fault to BP, 30 percent to Transocean and 3 percent to Halliburton. BP pledges to appeal.

Jan. 15, 2015 — Size ruling

Barbier determines that 3.19 million barrels of oil spilled. The amount would be used to calculate damages.

Feb. 24, 2015 — Size appeal

BP appeals judge's ruling on size of the oil spill.

July 2, 2015 — Settlement reached

BP agreed to pay about $18.7 billion in damages for water pollution caused by the spill, settling claims with the U.S. government and Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida.

Alabama Governor Announces BP Oil Spill Settlement 1:01