9 March 1999


On March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez, one of Exxon's largest oil tankers, under the command of a captain who had been drinking and who abandoned the bridge, struck a reef and spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska.

"It's none of your business"

In September 1994, an Alaska jury found Exxon liable for punitive damages for its conduct in causing the oil spill and assessed $5 billion against the company. The lawsuit was brought by commercial fishermen, Alaska natives and others directly harmed by the spill.

"Yes, but it was for different projects that overlap the time period."

"No, the information is not public information."

"Just in 1998."

In the nearly five years since its jury verdict, Exxon has not paid a penny of the damages. Instead, it has chosen to use an appeals process to delay and possibly defeat any payment.

"I don't remember that either."

To commemorate the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the world's largest oil company has decided to ratchet up the corporate attack on punitive damages.

"I have several projects. This is one paper I did, but I'm working on several other things."

It has just come to our attention that last year, Exxon funded Harvard Law Professor W. Kip Viscusi to look into the issue of punitive damages. Viscusi obliged, and wrote an article for the Georgetown Law Journal advocating the abolition of punitive damages. ("The Social Costs of Punitive Damages Against Corporations in Environmental and Safety Torts," by W. Kip Viscusi, 87 Georgetown Law Journal 2(285), November 1998.)

"I don't even know."

In a footnote to the article, Viscusi discloses that the research for the article was funded in part by "a grant from the Exxon Corporation."

Newspoetry at Spineless Books