Exxon could face billions in damages

By ROSIE MESTEL in LOS ANGELES A jury in Anchorage decided last week that the captain of the Exxon Valdez and executives working for Exxon acted recklessly in the events leading up to the oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The verdict means the company could be liable for billions of dollars in punitive damages for the disaster, in which the tanker dumped 35 000 tonnes of crude oil into Prince William Sound. The jury’s decision ended the first round of a civil lawsuit brought by a group of 10 000 Alaskan fishermen, Native Americans and landowners, which is being heard in Anchorage this summer. In the next phase, the jury will decide how much Exxon should pay in damages. The lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking $1.5 billion in damages and $15 billion in punitive damages. The possibility of punitive damages is particularly important, says Rick Steiner, the University of Alaska’s marine adviser for Prince William Sound, and one of the plaintiffs. ‘Once you start waving the threat of multibillion-dollar punitive awards in front of oil shippers you’ll start seeing some action on tanker safety and operation safety,
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