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
Alaska Dispatch Publishing