Oh what I wouldn’t do to be a BP lawyer right now. Conversely, what I wouldn’t do to be anybody taking them to court. If you pick any classic Oil Giant vs. Little Guy battle you’ll find a recognizable trend: these babies drag out for EVER. You can pretty much guarantee your mortgage payments for the next 15 years, maybe even 25. The only caveat to the BP disaster is that the spill pissed off people with TV. You can rape rural Ecuador for their oil, but if you do it in the place where TV cameras roll then you’re screwed.
The difference between BP’s lastest disaster versus others is the coverage. The media circus won’t let BP escape, at least in the short term, from ponying up some cash. You can expect that with the pressure coming from all the SE states BP will be paying up a lot more and a lot sooner than the average oil disaster.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t years of litigation to be had. Do you think anybody will be held accountable, criminally, for the spill? Doubt it, but some team of lawyers is having a hayday and will for decades to come.