Supreme Court Cuts Exxon Punitive Damages for Valdez Oil Spill by 80%
Via: San Francisco Chronicle:
The Supreme Court, winding up a term of victories for businesses, cut punitive damages for Alaskans harmed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill by 80 percent today in a ruling that may signal new limits on damage awards for victims of corporate wrongdoing.
In a 5-3 decision, the justices reduced punitive damages from $2.5 billion to about $500 million for 32,000 commercial fishers, food processors and Alaskan natives whose livelihoods were damaged by the 1989 tanker spill, the worst in U.S. history. The court said Exxon’s conduct had not been motivated by malice or greed and noted that the jury had awarded the plaintiffs another $500 million as compensation for their losses.
Just as important for future cases, the court, which has imposed new restrictions on punitive damages for business misconduct in the last five years, suggested that the standard it used for Exxon - limiting punitive awards to an amount equal to the jury’s verdict on compensation - might apply to all class actions involving significant damages.