AGs whip up plaintiff support in Exxon-Valdez suit

Legal News Line Feb. 1, 2008, 12:51am

Rob McKenna

OLYMPIA -- Two attorneys general from opposite sides of the country have joined forces to encourage their brethren to sign an amicus brief in a lawsuit over the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Washington AG Rob McKenna and Maryland AG Doug Gansler have e-mailed a letter to attorneys general nationwide asking them to support the case of fishing workers and others in Prince William Sound who were impacted by the spill. Eighteen states have already done so. In Exxon Shipping Co. vs. Baker (docket# 07-219) the United States Supreme Court will hear Exxon's appeal of the $2.5 billion in punitive damages awarded against the company in federal court. Exxon argued that amount was five times more than the court total of all the fully-compensated losses of private economic interests in the spill. The outcome will affect 32,000 claimants, including 11,000 non-residents of Alaska, represented by 60 different law firms. Most private economic interests were commercial-fishing operators and seafood processors. The AGs' amicus brief does not address the actual amount of the punitive-damages award against Exxon but instead on the more technical issues involving maritime law and the Clean Water Act. It also argues that the punitive-damages laws applying to land-based activities should also apply at sea. "The brief also points out the severe economic harms to private interests that toxic spills can have and the need for an appropriate measure of deterrence of misconduct that can lead to toxic spills," the AGs' e-mail states. The USSC is scheduled to hear the case on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

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