Last week, attorney Stuart Smith with Stag Liuzza, L.L.C. in New Orleans, said “Halliburton is most likely talking with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee,” a group of attorneys appointed by Judge Barbier to represent businesses and residents with claims. “It’s not unusual in a case like this, where there’s been some significant discovery abuse, to try to settle claims,” Smith said. The abuse centers on Halliburton recently revealing cement evidence that probably should have been turned over to the U.S. Justice Dept. two years ago.“It appears that the court was unhappy with Halliburton’s actions during the discovery phase of the litigation,” Smith said, referring to phase one of the trial. He said the benefit to Halliburton of settling private claims would be to minimize uncertainty about their cost.