The Deepwater Horizon disaster is just over a year old, but litigation arising from the explosion and oil spill is expected to unfold over the course of many years.

On Friday, the federal judge appointed to hear cases following the disaster, set out his plan for the trial that will start as scheduled on February 27, 2012.

At a monthly status conference on the oil spill litigation U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier said the trial will unfold in three phases. According to a report by Rebecca Mowbray of The Times-Picayune:

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.”

The Times-Picayune notes that after a break, the court is expected to begin the 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.

Some 549 cases over the April 2010 well-blowout and 86-day oil spill have been consolidated in Judge Barbier’s court, and 108,000 individuals have filed claims alleging harm, according to The Times-Picayune article.

Some 11 crewmen lost their lives in the explosion and fire that resulted in the April 22, 2010 sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion of the rig, which caused $1 billion in insured property losses, was the biggest man-made disaster of 2010 (not including liability losses) and the tenth most costly insured catastrophe loss of 2010, according to Swiss Re.

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