February 29, 2008
Oral Argument on Punitives in Exxon Valdez Class Action
The Supreme Court heard oral argument Wednesday on whether to uphold the $2.5 billion punitive damages award against Exxon Mobil and its shipping subsidiary in a class action arising out of the 1989 oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound. For commentary on the argument and on the Justices' questions, see Scotusblog, Point of Law, and the New York Times. The Times article points out that the award, on behalf of a class of 32,000 fishermen and business owners, is the largest punitive damages award ever upheld in federal court. With Justice Alito recused because of stock ownership, a 4-4 tie would result in affirmance of the judgment. Observers have suggested the strong possibility that the award will be reduced but not eliminated.
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