On Monday British Petroleum (BP) will go to trial. The case – the worst ever oil spill in US waters.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and caught on fire during the evening of April 20, 2010. Of the 126 crew on board the rig, 11 died in the explosion. The Deepwater Horizon burned for 36 hours with a huge plume of smoke rising from the platform. The rig then sank to the seafloor, almost 5000 feet deep, where it remains today.

Oil continued to pour out of the pipe the rig had drilled until July 15. At that time a temporary cap was installed. It was permanently sealed and declared “effectively dead” on September 19, 2010. It’s estimated that hundreds of millions of gallons of oil leaked into the waters of the Gulf. The spill affected fishing and tourism, among other things, along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, parts of Florida and Texas.

Barring a last minute settlement, the trial will start tomorrow. BP is facing liabilities and fines that are estimated to range up to $52 billion. BP is reported to have already set aside $40 billion for costs related to the spill, and has paid out about $7 billion to victims and to those in the fishing, tourism and other industries that were affected by the spill.

It is expected that the case will take years to resolve. Approximately 340 lawyers, from 90 firms are involved, millions of legal briefs have been filed.

—- update 2/26/2012 —–

The AP and the Wall Street Journal are reporting this evening that the trial has been delayed until March 5th, to allow additional time for settlement talks to continue.