June 3, 2008

"Exxon Valdez Ruling Could Reshape Tort Law"

LegalNewsline has this story about the impact of the forthcoming decision in the Exxon Valdez case. The article quotes Ted Frank, director of the American Enterprise Institute's Legal Center for the Public Interest (and blogger at Overlawyered):

"It has the potential to be a major case," Frank said. "The court could remove strictures on punitive damages and leave it to the discretion of the lower courts and juries, and if that happens that obviously gives free rein for gigantic punitive damages."

He said the "more likely scenario" is that the high court "does something" to the punitive damage verdict against Exxon, noting that the justices decided to take the case when they could have declined it.

Our own assessment of the likely outcome, based on our review of the oral argument transcript, was that: "
The most likely outcome seems to be a split-decision affirming the plaintiffs' entitlement to punitive damages, but holding the amount of the award excessive under federal common law."