Alaska Files Exxon Amicus
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,
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
On the Web:
Download a copy of the State's brief from the Alaska Department
of Law's website
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