Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in the now 18 year old class-action suit against Exxon for it’s culpability in the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989. Exxon long ago lost the class-action suit, but they’ve been fighting having to pay out the 2.5 billion dollars in putative damages that were awarded to the plaintiffs. Exxon’s reasoning seems to hinge on the fact that, having paid 3.4 billion in clean-up costs, they should have to pay out to the 32,000 class-action participants (20 percent of which have died since the filing).
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick writes up the arguments presented (which you can read in their entirety here), and what struck me was the repeated point that, having violated company policy by drinking on the job, Capt. Joseph Hazelwood can’t be considered an agent (managerial or otherwise) for Exxon thereby nullifying Exxon’s culpability or responsibility in paying out to the devastated towns affected by the spill. That seems ridiculous to me, as it was Exxon’s malfeasance in not removing Halzelwood prior to the spill (discovery showed that he had a history of drinking on the job and that Exxon was aware of that fact) that lead, directly or not, to the spill itself.
Of course, Exxon’s claims of ‘oh, we’ve done so much’ seem rather foolish considering that the corporation generates 2.5 billion in revenue EVERY THREE WEEKS.
Read Dahlia Lithwick’s summation here