U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who will ultimately put a price tag on the worst oil spill in American history if the many lawsuits against BP go to trial, has given the oil giant and its many, many plaintiffs another week to reach a settlement.

BP and the other companies on the hook for the 2010 environmental disaster would probably prefer to settle out of court rather than gamble on the conclusions of one man. AP estimates that the total cost for the oil giant could reach as high as $52 billion in fines and compensation. That’s probably a worst-case scenario, from the company’s perspective. A settlement would be much smaller. BP made just over $16 billion last year and has been setting aside money to pay its legal challengers.

Barbier was born in New Orleans and appointed by President Bill Clinton.

AP explains what will happen in the trial if talks don’t pan out:

If no settlement is reached, Barbier will preside over a three-phase trial that could last the better part of a year. The first phase is designed to identify the causes of the deadly blowout and to assign percentages of fault to the companies involved in the ill-fated drilling project.

Financial analysts estimate BP could wind up paying anywhere from $15 billion to $30 billion over the lawsuits, and BP’s chief executive told a British newspaper that the company has set aside $40 million [sic] to deal with fines and costs associated with the spill. An AP analysis found that the company could conceivably face up to $52 billion in environmental fines and compensation if the judge determines the company was grossly negligent.

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