Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Exxon Valdez -- 19 Years Later

So, it is almost 19 years after the March 24, 1989 oil spill and the punitive damages issue STILL has not been decided!

In "Thank You For Smoking" (a movie rental that I highly recommend), the child of a tobacco lobbyist is asked to write an essay on why America has the best government. His dad's help? "Because of its endless appeal process."

Now, imagine that you are the Plaintiffs' lawyer in Minneapolis seeking this $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Per wikipedia (which, according to Michael Scott, must be accurate because anyone can write anything they want), the interest on this amount is $400,000,000 a year. But let's assume that interest in only $250,000,000 a year and let's say that it has been 15 years since the verdict. That is about $4 billion in interest.

So, assume that the Plaintiffs' lawyers get one-third of any recovery (I have no idea what they get). The Supreme Court's decision could mean that they either get $0 or they get $2.1 BILLION in attorneys' fees. Even dividing that money evenly by 500 lawyers (the lawyers, to my knowledge, are still a large Minneapolis firm) that is over $4,000,000 per lawyer.

As a Plaintiff's attorney myself, I cannot imagine the tension at the Supreme Court today.

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