Court declines to revisit Exxon Valdez punitive damages ruling

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal appeals court is declining to reconsider its November ruling that threw out as excessive the $5 billion punitive-damages verdict against Exxon Mobil Corp. for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

In November, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a federal judge in Anchorage to determine a lesser amount.

Without comment Friday, the court announced that it would not reconsider its decision. The court has recently revisited several of its high-profile rulings, sometimes reversing itself.

An anchorage jury had ordered the oil giant in 1994 to pay $5 billion to thousands of commercial fishermen, Alaska natives, property owners and others harmed by the nation's worst oil spill.

Exxon, which has since merged with Mobil to form Dallas-based Exxon Mobil Corp., had argued the verdict was unwarranted, unfair and excessive.

The appeals court ruled last year that some damages were justified to punish the company but agreed that $5 billion -- the biggest punitive damage award in history at the time -- was too much. The amount was equal to a year's worth of Exxon's profits at the time.

The court has not indicated what would be an acceptable verdict.

The case is In re: the Exxon Valdez, 97-35191.



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