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Exxon Valdez $2.5B oil spill ruling overturned

June 26, 2008

By James Vicini
June 25, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out the record $2.5 billion in punitive damages that Exxon Mobil Corp had been ordered to pay for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the nation’s worst tanker spill.

By a 5-3 vote, the high court ruled that the punitive damages award should be slashed to a maximum amount equal to the total relevant compensatory damages of $507.5 million.

The justices overturned a ruling by a U.S. Court of Appeals that had awarded the record punitive damages to about 32,000 commercial fishermen, Alaska natives, property owners and others harmed by the spill.

In the majority opinion, Justice David Souter concluded the $2.5 billion in punitive damages was excessive under federal maritime law, and should be cut to the amount of actual harm.

Soaring oil prices have propelled Exxon Mobil to previously unforeseen levels of profitability in recent years; the company posted earnings of $40.6 billion in 2007.

It took Exxon Mobil just under two days to bring in $2.5 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2007.

(Click here for the rest.)

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