Judge cuts Exxon Valdez damages award by $1bn

A federal judge has cut the damages awarded against the Exxon Corporation for the Exxon Valdez oil spill by $1bn.

A federal judge has cut the damages awarded against the Exxon Corporation for the Exxon Valdez oil spill by $1bn.

The award relates to the spilling of 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska, 13 years ago.

US District Judge Russel Holland reduced the original five billion dollars (€49bn) punitive damages award to four billion (€39bn).

An Alaska jury in 1994 approved the original award in the Exxon Valdez spill, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the award was excessive and sent the case back to Judge Holland. Exxon says it will appeal against the new figure.

"Our position is no punitive damages are really warranted in this case," said company spokesman Tom Cirigliano.

Dave Oesting, lead counsel for the roughly 32,000 plaintiffs - including fishermen, communities, businesses and landowners - said he was pleased with the decision.

Exxon argued that the company was effectively punished and deterred by the billions it had paid out in cleanup costs, compensation to hundreds of claimants and government fines.

Mr Holland heard arguments in the case in October. Lawyers for Exxon said "a huge reduction" was required - maybe all the way down to zero, but under criteria laid out by the appeals court, no more than 40 million dollars (€39m).

"This ruling flies in the face of the guidelines set by the appeals court when they sent this case back to Judge Holland," said Charles Matthews, ExxonMobil Vice President and General Counsel.

Miller, the plaintiffs' liaison lawyer, said the judge made note of the enormity of the event and the company's recklessness, which could have led to far greater damages.

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