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I don't like it, but

The Supreme Court on Wednesday slashed the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the Exxon Valdez disaster to $500 million, a decision that could have broader implications for limiting how much courts can order businesses to pay.

The decision was hailed by the business community and decried by environmentalists and Alaskans.

The court ruled that the victims of the worst oil spill in U.S. history may collect punitive damages from Exxon Mobil Corp. that amount to an average of $15,000 for each person who filed a claim against the energy company.

Justice David Souter wrote for the court that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses, $507.5 million, an amount equal to about four days worth of Exxon Mobil Corp.'s profits last quarter.

The Exxon Valdez case involves reckless action that was "profitless" for the company and that has already resulted in substantial recovery for substantial injury, Souter wrote. A penalty should be "reasonably predictable" in its severity, he added.

The case grew out of the 1989 disaster of the Exxon Valdez, a supertanker that dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, fouling 1,200 miles of coastline.

A jury decided in 1994 that Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages. In 2006, a federal appeals court cut that verdict in half.

Exxon asked the Supreme Court to reject the punitive damages judgment altogether, saying the company already has spent $3.4 billion to clean up the spill and compensate Native Alaskans, landowners and commercial fishermen.

Nearly 33,000 plaintiffs are in line to share in the award approved Wednesday, an average of about $15,000 a person. They would have collected an average of $75,000 each under the $2.5 billion judgment.

The Supreme Court was divided on its decision, 5-3. Justice Samuel Alito took no part in the case because he owns Exxon stock.

Comments

Gouldiae said…
I like your label for this entry Dave. Quite justified though. I sometimes get sad about what we are doing to our world, and how some get away with it.
Dave said…
Gouldiae - Thanks G. I won't get into it. The decision is rather upsetting and I don't want to post a foot long rant.
Trixie said…
Dave, where did you get the 50th logo? That is so cool!
Dave said…
Trixie - I forgot what site. I'll find it again and get you the link.
RuthieJ said…
This sucks, Dave! I guess big business wins again.