Jun 30, 2008
Nineteen years after destroying parts of the Alaskan coast with an oil spill, Exxon Mobil got the Supreme Court to drastically reduce the penalty it had to pay.
In 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled at least eleven million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. The company’s representative immediately promised “If you can show you have a loss as a result of this spill, we will compensate it.” About 34,000 Alaskan, especially fishermen, got compensation from Exxon – about $15,000 each – less than a year’s wage. That is all they got although their livelihoods were permanently ruined. To this day, marine experts don’t agree about how long it will take for the shoreline to be restored.
Alaskans from Prince William Sound then brought a law suit for punitive damages against Exxon, winning a five billion dollar award from a jury in 1994. Exxon immediately appealed and got the appeals court to cut that punitive award in half. But the courts weren’t done screwing Exxon’s victims.
The Supreme Court has now stepped up to cut that lower punitive amount to only five hundred million dollars, equal to about another $15,000 to each of the original victims.
As one Alaskan fisherman put it, “This [ruling] is a knife in the gut.”
And what is five hundred million dollars to a corporation that made 40 billion dollars in PROFIT last year? That’s one and a quarter% of one year’s profit for Exxon.
The U.S. justice system came through – for its friends who own corporate America.