December 6, 2008

Exxon Valdez Victims Receive First Payments of Punitive Damages Award

From today's LA Times: Exxon Valdez victims receive first payments. The theme of the article, like many other similar articles recently, is that the checks being mailed out are inadequate to compensate for the plaintiffs for the economic hardships they suffered as a result of the Valdez spill. Most reporters in the nonlegal press seem to overlook the fact that these are payments of punitive damages, which by their nature are not designed to compensate the plaintiffs. The compensatory damages were paid years ago. If those payments were inadequate to prevent the plaintiffs from suffering financial ruin as a result of the spill, then the flaw in the justice system occurred during the compensatory damages phase, not during the subsequent years of litigation over the punitive damages. To the credit of LA Times reporter Kim Murphy, she at least mentions the compensatory damages award, which is more than can be said of most recent press accounts.