Exxon may not get out of Valdez spill damages


On October 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the case of the tanker spill after a federal appeals court again reduced the punitive damages in a toxic tort suit against Exxon-Mobile for the oil spill caused then the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989. The spill, which visibly polluted 1500 miles of Alaskan coastline and caused incalculable damage to the fish and wildlife of the coast, was deemed the result of recklessness by Exxon and by the captain of the ship. Originally, Exxon was ordered to pay about $5 billion in actual and punitive damages as a result of the tanker crash. After thirteen years of fighting the award, the company has been rewarded by a second slashing of the amount down to $2.5 billion, although interest continues to accumulate on the award.

In related news, Exxon-Mobile again reported record earnings last year—$ 36.1 billion, the largest of any US company ever. And this quarter, it posted earnings of $10.49 billion.

For the plaintiffs in the case, who have been waiting thirteen years to be paid, exhaustion has finally set in. Their lawyer admits that many of them just want the suit to end. Unfortunately, corporations often have the ability to do this to plaintiffs. By appealing every award, they are often able to get them reduced, and even if they do not, they continue to earn interest on the award money. Although interest on the settlement accumulates daily, Exxon seems to be making good use of the money in the meantime, easily earning enough on the initial $5 billion dollar amount to pay both $2.5 billion in damages and $2.2 billion in interest, making the newest reduction equivalent to letting Exxon off the hook (or out of the gillnet) scot-free

But we cannot be worn down. We must continue to fight, to hold corporations responsible when they make their profits over the despoiling of irreplaceable resources and the livelihood of people who depend on those resources. And we must fight them everywhere we are able. If your community has been the victim of a profit-taking corporation’s pollution, contact PersonalInjury.com today to find a lawyer who can help you seek justice.