Alaska’s take foiled

U.S. Supreme Court slashes punitive damages for the victims of Exxon Valdez

Nearly 20 years after Exxon Valdez devastated Prince William Sound, the Alaskan region was dealt another blow by the highest court in the nation.

In a recent 5-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with big business by chopping the amount of punitive damages caused by the oil giant’s spill from $2.5 billion to $500 million. The decision translates into a mere $15,000 per victim of the catastrophic disaster, according to The Associated Press.

Originally, in 1994, a jury decided the company should pay $5 billion in punitive damages, but a federal appeals court later cut that amount in half. Hundreds of thousands of marine birds and other ocean wildlife were killed as a result of the 1989 spill, which occurred when the supertanker’s drunken captain ran the vessel aground.

In addition to the environmental and economic devastation dealt to the region, cultural experts note that many native people who relied on fishing for their food were forced to move to urban areas.