BP on Thursday settled the main civil case arising from the fatal Texas City refinery explosion.
It lifts the immediate threat of highly damaging documents being made public and the prospect of Lord Browne, BP’s chief executive, being forced to testify.
BP said it would make $32m (£17m) in worker training and healthcare donations to help those in the industry, and provide a private settlement to the claimant to end the trial, which was to have started with opening arguments on Monday.
The company also agreed that plaintiffs could release all 7m of the documents they uncovered in researching their case to federal agencies investigating the blast, and work towards eventually making most of them public.
But the deal does not end BP’s problems in North America. The company still faces the threat of criminal prosecution arising from a grand jury investigation into the actions of the company and its executives. Fifteen people died and an estimated 500 were injured when the plant exploded last year – the worst US industrial accident for more than a decade.
The blast raised concerns among federal regulators about problems with BP’s safety culture in the US, which were heightened by the closure of half of BP’s Alaskan oilfield earlier this year after the discovery of severe pipeline corrosion.