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Exxon Valdez case timeline

Today: By a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court orders lower courts to reduce $2.5 billion punitive damages award to no more than $507.5 million.



February 2008: Final oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Exxon appeal.



2007: The Appeals Court declines to reconsider the damages amount. Exxon appeals and the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case.



2006: A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cuts to $2.5 billion the amount Exxon should pay in damages.



2004: Holland orders Exxon to pay $4.5 billion in punitive damages.



2003: The appeals court panel vacates the award and tells Holland to reconsider it in light of a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving punitive damages. In that other case, the justices provided a guideline that punitive damages should be less than 10 times the actual damages.



2002: U.S. District Judge Russel Holland reduces the punitive damages award to $4 billion, saying he could not "by any principled means" reduce it further. Exxon says it will appeal again.



2001: Federal appeals court rules against Exxon on most points but agrees that the $5 billion verdict is excessive. Returns the case to a lower court to determine a new amount.



1994: A jury awards the plantiffs $287 million in actual damages and $5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon vows to appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary.



1989: Fishermen, land and business owners, and others harmed by the spill begin filing civil lawsuits against Exxon. The cases are eventually combined for the trial.



MARCH 24, 1989: Exxon Valdez tanker, skippered by Capt. Joe Hazelwood, runs aground on Bligh Reef, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound.



Note: Between 1990 and 1994, Hazelwood was convicted of negligent discharge of oil but acquitted of drunken driving; Exxon pleaded guilty to four environmental crimes and paid $125 million in criminal fines plus $900 million to settle civil lawsuits filed by the government; and Exxon settled a civil suit filed by about 3,500 Alaska Natives for $20 million for damage to subsistence hunting and gathering.


Anchorage Daily News