Written by Adrianne Madden
October 21, 2008
Like Michael Myers in the "Halloween" movies, the Exxon Valdez oil spill case refuses to die.
That seems appropriate with Halloween almost upon us. Horror movie buffs, welcome to "Nightmare on Prince William Sound." Freddie Krueger would, um, kill to have his slasher movie franchise last this long.
Apparently, legal wrangling over punitive damage payments to plaintiffs in the Exxon saga isn't over. Lawyers for Seattle-based Sea Hawk Seafoods, a processing company that had a plant in Valdez, are asking a federal judge to set aside an allocation plan for distributing the $505 million Exxon-Mobil must pay plaintiffs.
According to an Anchorage Daily News article http://www.adn.com/exxonvaldez/story/561421.html, they wish to jettison the plan in favor of one that adheres to the Supreme Court ruling. Sea Hawk lawyers assert that the court ruled that the size of punitive damage awards must be proportional to the size of compensatory damage awards already paid to plaintiffs.
The prospect of further payment delay must be enormously frustrating to the 30,000 plaintiffs who've waited some 19 years for resolution to the case. It's said 3,000 plaintiffs died awaiting a ruling.
Meanwhile, this latest twist in the punitive damages court proceedings begs another question.
Given the magnitude of the Prince William Sound spill and the tortuous, drawn-out legal maneuvering, how did Alaska Gov. and Republican Party vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin draw a blank when CBS news anchor Katie Couric asked her to cite another Supreme Court ruling besides Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with?
It's especially puzzling given her and her husband's commercial salmon fishing background. How did the words "Exxon-Mobil" not flash in big neon letters in her head?
Now Palin did cite the Exxon-Mobil ruling, along with two others, in a subsequent interview with Fox News, saying that the decision "personally affected me." In an interview with Fox's Carl Cameron, Palin explained she was "flippant" in the Couric interview because she was annoyed at the line of questioning.
I doubt I'd fare any better than Palin if I was plopped in front of a TV camera and interviewed by a network news anchor. I might be hard pressed to remember my own name much less what Supreme Court decisions I disagreed with.
But I'm not running for vice president — and in essence president — of the United States. And if I were an Alaska fisherman whose life has been disrupted by the 1989 Valdez oil spill, I'd be wondering why the Exxon-Mobil case didn't come to Palin's mind.
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