ExxonMobil Seeks Damages Adjustment

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ExxonMobil Seeks Damages Adjustment

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Exxon Mobil Corp. asked a federal district court in Anchorage to reduce a $5 billion punitive damage award levied against it resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill to no more than $40 million.

The motion, filed with a federal court in Anchorage, is consistent with a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year which declared the $5 billion punitive damages award "excessive" and sent the case back to the Anchorage District Court with orders to reduce the award to an amount consistent with constitutional limits.

In filing the motion ExxonMobil said the Valdez oil spill was a tragic accident that the company deeply regrets. It added that the company took immediate responsibility for the spill, cleaned it up, and voluntarily compensated those who claimed direct damages.

ExxonMobil paid $300 million immediately and voluntarily to more than 11,000 Alaskans and businesses affected by the Valdez spill. In addition, the company paid $2.2 billion on the cleanup of Prince William Sound, staying with the cleanup from 1989 to 1992, when the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard declared the cleanup complete. ExxonMobil also has paid $1 billion in settlements with the state and federal governments, the company said in a statement.

ExxonMobil argued that punitive damages should be consistent with the amount of the fine imposed by the government for the Valdez spill ($25 million) and, in no event, exceed twice the compensatory damages awarded to private plaintiffs as a result of the spill ($40 million). The company said that an award of $40 million would be "only slightly less than the largest punitive damages award ever approved by any federal appellate court anywhere."

The largest punitive damages award approved on appeal by any federal court is $58.5 million levied against United International for intentional fraud.