A federal appeals court Friday cut in half a $5-billion jury award for punitive damages against Exxon Mobil Corp. in the 1989 Valdez oil spill.
The case, one of the nation's longest-running noncriminal legal disputes, stems from a 1994 decision by an Anchorage jury to award the damages to 34,000 fishermen and other Alaskans. Their property and livelihoods were harmed when the oil tanker Valdez struck a charted reef, spilling 11 million gallons of oil.
It was the third time the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Anchorage court to reduce the award, saying it was excessive in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
This time, in its 2-1 decision, the court ordered a specific amount in damages.
"It is time for this protracted litigation to end," Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote.
Exxon spokesman Dave Gardner criticized the decision, saying, "The facts of this case do not warrant an award this size." He did not say whether the company would appeal.
David Oesting, lead lawyer from Anchorage representing the plaintiffs, said he was considering whether to ask the court to rehear the case with 15 judges or to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.