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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

US Supreme Court declines to consider interest owed on Exxon oil spill damages
Mike Rosen-Molina at 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday declined to rule [order, PDF] on whether Exxon Mobil [corporate website] owes interest on a punitive damages award entered against it for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill [EPA backgrounder]. In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 [opinion; JURIST report] to reduce a punitive damages award to be paid by Exxon from $2.5 billion to $500 million, but did not rule on the issue of interest. Exxon then petitioned the Court for clarification of that issue. On Tuesday, the Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the matter to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website]. Exxon has argued that if it is required to pay interest on the award, it should only have to pay that which has accrued since the Supreme Court awarded damages, rather that which has accrued since a federal jury first awarded damages in 1994. AP has more.

In December 2006, the Ninth Circuit reduced [JURIST report] Exxon's original $5 billion punitive damage award by over $2 billion, ruling [PDF, text] that the award was excessive in light of a 2003 US Supreme Court ruling that punitive damages must be reasonable and proportionate to the harm incurred, and also considered Exxon's cleanup and compensation efforts. On Wednesday, the US Coast Guard [official website] resumed investigatory hearings into another tanker collision [JURIST report] which caused the spilling of approximately 400,000 gallons of oil into the Mississippi River on July 23, resulting in the temporary closure of a 100-mile stretch of the waterway.

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