American Shipper

Exxon Valdez punitive damages reduced

Exxon Valdez punitive damages reduced

A federal appeals court in San Francisco reduced a jury award against ExxonMobile from $4.5 billion to $2 billion in a case emerging from the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez and resulting oil spill.

   But the company said in a statement that it was reviewing the ruling and said: 'In our opinion, the facts of this case do not warrant an award of this size.'

   In 1994, an Anchorage jury made the massive award of punitive damages to 34,000 fishermen and other Alaskans who said their property and livelihoods were harmed when the tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil.

   Last week’s decision was the third time the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Anchorage court to reduce the multibillion dollar award, saying it was unconstitutionally excessive in light of the U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

   In a 2-1 decision, the court last week ordered a specific amount in damages. In earlier rulings, it had allowed the lower court to name its own figures. The most recent decision grew out of an Exxon appeal of a 2002 decision by the Anchorage court to reduce damages to $4 billion.