Alaskan fisherman who are waiting to receive their share of a $500 million punitive damages award from Exxon for its notorious 1989 Valdez oil spill may have to wait longer. And in the end, the fishermen’s cut of the pie may be smaller than they anticipated.
A Seattle-based seafood company is challenging the allocation of the award. According to filings by attorneys for the company, Sea Hawk Seafoods Inc., say that the current allocation plan, laid out by a an Alaska federal judge more than a decade ago, is flawed.
The company argues that the June U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case – holding that punitive damages in the case should be roughly on a 1:1 ratio with the compensatory damages award – means the breakdown of the distribution of the punitive damages award should be similar to the breakdown of compensatory damages already awarded.
If the company is successful in its challenge, some awardees – such as fishermen – could receive a smaller cut of the award, while others such as cannery workers could get more.
David Oesting, the lead lawyer for Exxon, said the company is fighting the challenge. “They just want a whole lot more money that they’re not really entitled to, in my opinion,” Oesting said.
Subscribers can find past Lawyers USA coverage of the Exxon case and its implications here in the archives.