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Alaska Files Exxon Amicus Brief
State Supports $2.5 Billion Punitive Damages Award to Alaskans


January 29, 2008

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin today announced that the State of Alaska has filed an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief supporting the award of punitive damages against Exxon Mobil stemming from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The State filed its amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed in October to hear Exxon Mobil's appeal. The case is on appeal from a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding punitive damages of $2.5 billion dollars. Exxon has continued to appeal a 1994 jury award of punitive damages to Alaskans.

The State asserts maritime law permits a court to hold Exxon responsible for the conduct of its employee and ship's captain, Joseph Hazelwood.

The State also asserts the federal Clean Water Act does not prevent harmed parties from obtaining punitive damages. The State views such damages as a deterrent to unsafe conduct and as partial compensation for injured parties whose relief is otherwise limited by technical rules of maritime law.

"The State certainly believes Exxon is wrong and has worked very hard preparing a brief to persuade the Supreme Court to affirm the jury's award," said Attorney General Talis Colberg. "Exxon's arguments, if they prevail, would not only deny Alaskans compensation to which they are due, but would reduce the incentive for those who use our coastal waters to operate in a careful and safe manner."

In conjunction with filing its brief, and at the invitation of counsel for the individuals who were awarded the damages, the State has asked the Supreme Court to allow it time at oral argument to present its views.

Governor Palin thanked Alaska's state legislators and the Alaska congressional delegation for their separately filed amicus briefs opposing Exxon. She also extended her thanks to the four former Alaska governors, Walter Hickel, Tony Knowles, Steve Cowper and Bill Sheffield, who joined the brief submitted by the Alaska State Legislature.


On the Web:

Download a copy of the State's brief from the Alaska Department of Law's website










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