The federal government is attempting to settle a lawsuit from more than 1,200 Metis, Inuit and Innu plaintiffs seeking an apology and damages for abuse and cultural losses at residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The lawsuit was adjourned Monday morning as opposing lawyers meet Tuesday with a retired judge in an effort to settle the case.

If no agreement is reached, the federal lawyers will begin their defence arguments on Feb. 29. The suit alleges both sexual and physical abuse.

The plaintiffs' lawyer said the settlement efforts reflect a dramatic shift in attitude following the change of government in Ottawa.

Judge Robert Stack agreed to the adjournment but stressed in provincial Supreme Court that time is of the essence to resolve the lawsuit.

"Given the age and some of the health concerns of the members, it's imperative that we get this case finished."

Many of the plaintiffs were devastated to find they were excluded from then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology in 2008 and a related compensation package for rampant abuse at Indian residential schools.

Lawyers for the federal government deny it was responsible for institutions that opened before the province joined Confederation in 1949.

They were located in St. Anthony, Cartwright, North West River, Nain and Makkovik.

The International Grenfell Association ran three of the schools, while the German-based Moravian Missionaries ran the other two.