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Exxon's Endless Lawsuit

Publication Date: 
March 23, 2009
Conde Nast
Dirk Olin

Professor Jeffrey Fisher is quoted in Conde Nast's Portfolio in an article that describes Exxon's ongoing lawsuits involving the Exxon Valdez disaster 20 years ago. Exxon contends that it should not have to to pay interest on the settlement payment of the class action suit filed by fishermen that was decided by the Supreme Court last June:

In a 5-3 ruling last June—Justice Samuel Alito had recused himself because he owned Exxon Mobil stock—the Supreme Court capped the punitive award at $507.5 million, based on the actual damages plus other settlements.

The court determined that in the realm of the reckless, Exxon's conduct had not been particularly egregious and should therefore be penalized according to a "typical" jury's determination of a one-to-one ratio to actual damages.


The half-billion-dollar question remains. Exxon says it shouldn't have to pay any interest at all; at most, it says, interest should accrue only after the Supreme Court ruled in the case, not from the date of the original judgment in 1994.

Nonsense, answers Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford Law School professor who helped to represent the plaintiffs. In briefs to the appellate court in December, he argued that in prior cases before the Ninth Circuit, interest has always been calculated from the original date of judgment.

Does that make it a lock? No. "After the Ninth Circuit decides the issue, the loser will have the right to seek Supreme Court review," Fisher said, somewhat ruefully.