Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Justice" in America

If I was to go dump toxic pollution in the local river I'd get fined a couple thousand dollars. I would have zero chance of avoiding the fine and it would be a heavy financial burden. However, if I was a giant corporation and caused one of the greatest environmental disasters in American history - the effects of which are still being felt to this day - I'd be able to avoid paying the fine for 20 years ... and then I would have the Supreme Court slash the fine (for the second time) to practically nothing (relative to my profits.)

The fight over the punitive damages reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999. Since then, Exxon filed more than 60 petitions and appeals, sought 23 time extensions and filed more than 1,000 motions, briefs, requests and demands. The company requested a reduction in the damages amount, a reversal of the verdict and a new trial, claiming jury misconduct and jury tampering, according to Rodgers.

More than 3,000 claimants died waiting for an outcome in the case.

The original jury award of $5 billion was intended to be the equivalent of about a year's average profits for the company. Last year, Exxon Mobil made $40 billion, the largest annual profit of any corporation in U.S. history.
But, hey, Exxon says it already paid for the clean-up and restitution (supposedly), so why should it have to be bothered with paying punitive damages (um, so that you have some reason to actually bother with safety precautions and out of a sense of equity to the victims of the region?) Yep, things sure do sound swell in Prince William Sound

Two decades later, the fragile ecosystem of Prince William Sound has yet to fully recover, especially on the hardest-hit beaches. More than 200 tons of oil remain in beach sediment. Herring — which are vital as food to 40 species of birds, mammals and fish — have never returned to pre-spill populations.

"Until herring recover, we are kind of treading water," said Riki Ott, a scientist and author in Cordova, Alaska. "Prince William Sound is beautiful, but if you take a shovel all you have to do is dig down six inches and there is oil. It smells like a gas station, still, today."
Update: Here is one of the victims of the Exxon Valdez spill who has supposedly been compensated already.

Countless motions and almost twenty years later we have finally neared the conclusion of Exxon's efforts to evade its responsibility. However, the plaintiff's faith in the Government as well as the judicial system has been permanently eroded. In light of the United States Supreme Court perceived inclination to reduce the punitive damages, our hearts are heavy. With a further judgment reduction, total amounts in many peoples claims will not even scratch those monies owed to the State. It is frustrating to think that upon conclusion of this trial many of us will be going bankrupt, our lives ruined again in this endless nightmare.
Update II: Some more victims thrilled by the decision.

“This decision is a giant cold slap in the face,” said Garland Blanchard, 59, a third-generation fisherman who said he lost his marriage along with his two fishing boats, house, cat and dog to financial pressures caused by the spill. Mr. Blanchard expects to receive less than $100,000 from the settlement, down from the $1.2 million he had previously expected.

“Our lives and businesses have been destroyed, and we get basically nothing,” he said. “It’s pathetic.”

1 comment:

Kolin said...

Wow exxon are motherfuckers