A federal appeals court has correctly denied ExxonMobil Corp.’s request for another hearing in its last appeal, letting stand its ruling that the energy giant owes $2.5 billion in punitive damages for its 1989 oil spill in Alaska. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has been called a milestone, ending a lengthy series of decisions and appeals between the Ninth Circuit and the Alaska district court. Now only the U.S. Supreme Court can consider any further appeals. I hope that won’t happen. It’s high time for this epic civil case to be over. Folks hurt by the spill should now receive the payments from Exxon. The appeals court has declined to have a larger panel of judges reconsider the court’s decision in December to reduce the $4.5 billion in punitive damages owed by ExxonMobil for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to $2.5 billion. It’s time for this lawsuit between a politically powerful oil giant and 32,000 fishermen, Alaska natives, and property owners who were damaged by Exxon’s reprehensible conduct to come to an end. I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will refuse to hear an appeal to the highest court by ExxonMobil.
On three occasions, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has heard appeals since an Anchorage jury on September 16, 1994, returned a $5 billion punitive damages verdict against Exxon. About 20% of the victims who filed suit in the class action have died waiting for payment. The class now stands at about 33,000 commercial fishermen, cannery workers, landowners, Natives, local governments, and businesses. Exxon literally believes it is above the law and so far it appears they may be right.
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