Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate

And you thought the Exxon case was all over

Those Alaskan fishermen who have been waiting since 1996 to get their money from Exxon Mobil are going to have to wait some more.

Now Exxon and the Alaskan fishermen are fighting about the interest from the case judgment, and the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to get in the middle of that one.

And you thought this 20-year case was over.

The high court today left it to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to decide whether the fishermen should get about $488 million in interest plus $507.5 million in punitive damages.  

For those who threw away their scorecard when the Supremes finally issued their opinion at the last possible moment before the court adjourned in June, here’s how Exxon’s lawyers have saved their client from a $10 billion judgment:

A jury awarded the fishermen $5 billion in punitive damages after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil in pristine Prince William Sound in 1989. Exxon appealed, and the San Francisco Court cut the damages to $4.5 billion on Sept. 24, 1996. That’s when the interest should have started ticking at 5.9 percent, according to the fishermen, represented by Minneapolis attorney Brian O’Neil and his partners at Faegre & Benson.

Exxon appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court, which cut the punitive damages again, this time to an amount equal to the compensatory damages, instead of roughly 10 times the compensatory damages the jury thought was appropriate.

In an excellent discussion of the case, Lyle Denniston points out that whoever loses in the 9th Circuit could again appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some of the fishermen in this case have died. Will their heirs live to see a resolution?

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by John Eisberg on 08/13/2008 - 11:08 am.

    Some of the fishermen have died? I’ve heard that 8000 have died since the litigation began. I can think of no greater travesty of American justice than this case. Now that Exxon has found a new avenue of appeal, they will continue to laugh all the way to the bank, at the expense of their innocent victims whose livelihood has largely been ruined.

Leave a Reply