Exxon Valdez plaintiffs seek interest

July 11, 2008 at 9:24 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 11 (UPI) -- Thousands of U.S. plaintiffs who sued over the Exxon Valdez oil spill are asking to be paid interest on the damage award they were given in 1994.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month reduced the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the long-running lawsuit to no more than $507.5 million, Legal Newsline reported Friday.

An attorney representing some 32,000 plaintiffs says about $488 million in interest has accrued since an Anchorage jury awarded plaintiffs $5 billion in 1994.

Attorney Brian O'Neill of Minneapolis filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking the high court to specify the plaintiffs are entitled to interest on the award.

Federal court rules say when interest payments are awarded they are calculated by a certain Federal Reserve rate available at the time of the award. In the Exxon case, that rate was 5.9 percent.

In 2006, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reduced the $5 billion award to $2.5 billion. Exxon then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Exxon based its appeals on an 1818 court decision that holds ship owners are not liable for punitive damages for the actions of their agents at sea unless they're complicit in their wrongdoing.

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