June 25, 2008
Alaska screwed over by Exxon again
"For Alaska to continue to do business with Big Oil and Exxon as a State, without insisting on justice for us, is like letting the guy that date raped your daughter live in your basement"
By Dennis Zaki - The US Supreme Court has reduced the damages award from $2.5 billion to $507 million to the plaintiffs in Alaska, many whose lives were ruined, from the Exxon Valdez oil spill nearly 20 years ago.
Nearly 33,000 Alaskans will get a nearly $15,000 share in the award. They would have collected $75,000 each under the $2.5 billion judgment.
The Supreme Court ruled that the punitive damages should be limited to an amount equal to the compensatory damages of $507.5 million.
Over 2,000 of the plaintiffs have died since the Exxon Valdez, with a drunk captain, collided with rocks in Alaska's once pristine Prince William Sound and spilled 11 million gallons of oil in one of the largest oil spills in US history.
Exxon has been able to repeatedly delay paying any damages since an Anchorage jury in 1994 decided Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages.
Exxon asked the Supreme Court to reject the punitive damages judgment, claiming it already has spent $3.4 billion in response to the accident that fouled 1,200 miles of Alaska coastline.
In the court's opinion, Justice David Souter concluded that the $2.5 billion in punitive damages was excessive under federal maritime law, and should be cut to the amount of actual harm.
"The punitive damages award against Exxon was excessive as a matter of maritime common law," wrote Justice David Souter. "In the circumstances of this case, the award should be limited to an amount equal to compensatory damages."
To put the original award into perspective, it took Exxon just under two days to bring in $2.5 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2007.
Anchorage radio host Shannyn Moore, a plaintiff in the case said "For Alaska to continue to do business with Big Oil and Exxon as a State, without insisting on justice for us, is like letting the guy that date raped your daughter live in your basement...shameful.."
Fisherman Victor Smith said "Alaskans have no excuse to whine as with this court they've gotten exactly what they've voted for, election after election, from Bush, Stevens, Young, and Murkowski. One of the Alaskan delegation's main thrusts has been to road block the public's ability to even bring future suits like this to court. The corporations get the tax breaks and the profits and the public gets the risk."
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