Class Action Exxon Valdez Suit Escalates to Supreme Court

The 11 million gallons of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez has left lasting repercussions for Alaskan residents.© Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

A petition filed last week by the plaintiffs in the long-running legal case surrounding the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the full $5 billion punitive fine initially imposed on Exxon (now ExxonMobil) in 1994 by a federal district court jury Anchorage, Alaska. The fine was halved in the interim by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and ExxonMobil itself recently filed its own petition asking to drop the remaining punitive fine altogether. Upwards of 30,000 individuals—including commercial fishermen, Alaska natives, property owners and others harmed by the spill—are party to the class action suit.

As a result of the Exxon Valdez running aground in 1989, 11 million gallons of crude oil spread out over 13,000 miles of pristine and fragile coastline in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, closing commercial fisheries and killing thousands of marine mammals and hundred of thousands of seabirds.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs accuse ExxonMobil of purposely mounting legal challenge after legal challenge to the original jury’s verdict in order to prolong the case and potentially have it dropped, despite the fact that record earnings give the company plenty of cash that it could use to pay off the entire fine. For its part, ExxonMobil claims to have already spent upwards of $3.5 billion on clean-up and other efforts related to mitigating the effects of the spill, and says it does not deserve to be further punished for what it terms a "tragic accident."

Source: Planet Ark