CRUDE REMINDERS

10 years after 'the day the waterdied,' pain of Valdez spill still stings in Alaska

By Dianne Solis, Mark Curriden / Staff Writers of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-14-1999


CORDOVA, Alaska - In this remote fishing village clinging to the rocky shores of Prince William Sound, bookstore owner Kelley Weaverling thrusts a jar of black goo at a visitor and peels off the lid as though he were ripping a scab off an old wound.

And in a sense he is.

"We must never forget," he said as the air fills with the sulfuric stench of North Slope crude oil. "Never, ever forget what they did to us."

Old acrimony from an old wound is spilling out all around Prince William Sound this spring - and for that matter, in many spots across Alaska. On March 24, 1989, one of the world's largest oil tankers, owned by Irving-based Exxon Corp., slammed into Bligh Reef, causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Eleven million gallons of crude tumbled from the belly of the Exxon Valdez that frigid Good Friday midnight, soiling some 1,500 miles of shore, devastating nearby sea life and for a time paralyzing the state's $80 million-a-year fishing industry.

A decade later, the event still permeates the lore of Alaska and the lives of countless residents - even those hundreds of miles and cultural worlds apart.

Cruise ships continue to bring tourists each spring and summer to marvel at the region's natural beauty.

But the chatter on deck today is as likely to be about the Exxon Valdez as majestic glaciers, soaring bald eagles or brightly colored puffins.

In the port of Valdez, where the aging Alaska pipeline ends its snakelike run from the Arctic Circle, teams of highly trained and heavily equipped oil-spill experts stand by around the clock these days to guard against history repeating itself.

And March 24 is painfully recalled as "the day the water died" in many Alaska Native communities, where residents harvest the staples of life from the sea and its shores.

"There's always the underlying fear-...," explains Gary Kompkoff, council president in Tatitlek, a tiny Aleut village near Bligh Reef in view of the tanker lanes.

The wreck of the Exxon Valdez marked "a loss of innocence" for Alaska and Alaskans, said Gov. Tony Knowles, a former North Slope roughneck.

"It caused people to question some of the most basic values and relationships," he said, including the dizzying economic growth and personal wealth they had enjoyed from prior decades of oil development.

Alaskans accepted on faith "that if there were a spill we could handle it," he said.

If the spill left any legacy, he says, it is a new attitude of prevention, which shows up in everything from tugboat horsepower to pipeline corrosion standards.

"We're prepared to pay the price of vigilance because we know the price of complacency," the governor said.

Not all Alaskans, of course, see the spill in such philosophical terms.

In Valdez's dimly lit Pipeline bar, some longshoremen are still quick to deride environmentalists as "bunny-huggers" and laugh at accounts of Exxon spending $80,000 on each oil-soaked otter it saved after the spill.

The Pipeline is where Exxon Valdez Capt. Joseph Hazelwood was seen drinking before taking the helm that fateful night. He was accused of being drunk and allowing his ship to run aground, but he and Exxon both deny that. He was acquitted on criminal charges in the early 1990s.

For others, having relived it many times already, the spill is tired, old history better left alone.

"It happened; it shouldn't have happened," said David Cobb, the mayor of Valdez. "Let's learn from it and get on with life."

But for some like Mr. Weaverling, the bookstore owner, that's hard to do.

Ten years ago, when Cordova awoke to news of the spill, "we were devastated, bewildered, maybe even terrified," he said. Ten years later, he said, people are "bitter and extremely angry."

Thumbing through his Bible, fisherman Jonathan McDade thumps his hand on the Book of Revelation describing the Antichrist - Jesus' antagonist who is expected to spread universal evil.

"That's Exxon," he announces. "It's a creation out of Hell."

Much regret

For Exxon, such comments are nothing new. The Exxon Valdez saga is never ending for it as well.

It admits causing the spill, and says that since 1989 it has paid billions for cleanup, reparations, fines and damages. It says it spent $2.1 billion at the time recovering oil, scrubbing shorelines and paying other bills. Since then, it has paid $800 million of more than $1 billion in government penalties and some $325 million in private damage claims.

The giant oil company is quick to say it is sorry, too.

"We very much believe that the spill was a tragic accident and one that we very, very much regret," said Frank Sprow, vice president of environment and safety, as he ticks off a litany of ways the company tried to clean up and accept responsibility.

But there's one rap Exxon won't accept, and so there's one huge bill that it steadfastly refuses to pay.

In 1994, an Anchorage federal court jury ruled that Exxon acted recklessly in causing the spill and assessed $5 billion in punitive damages on behalf of thousands of fishermen and others who felt its impact.

The judgment - the largest such punishment ever - is "completely unjust and completely inappropriate," Mr. Sprow said.

Exxon has fought that ruling so bitterly that legal experts predict that it could be years, if ever, before a dime is paid.

That resistance alone keeps the emotions alive for many Alaskans, says Steven Picou, a University of South Alabama sociologist who studies technological disasters and has been involved in Alaska since the wreck.

"The very mechanism to bring closure and end pain and suffering is litigation, and yet litigation can [also] be used to stall closure, " he said.

Lawyers often file complex legal papers and motions in hopes that opponents will give up and go away, he says. That possibility angers residents of Prince William Sound, who thought that they had won the battle five years ago, Dr. Picou says.

Living anguish

Permanent memorials have further institutionalized Alaskans' anguish.

In Seward, some 125 miles across the sound from Cordova, visitors at a spectacular $56 million SeaLife Center combining tourism and marine research are bluntly reminded that funding came in part from Exxon penalties.

Even a tiny museum exhibit in Valdez displays a frayed postcard addressed to "all the folks in Valdez: Don't lose heart -- We are saddened for we love the sea, too."

A 1991 documentary film, Darkened Waters, still plays regularly in community settings around the state, reminding viewers of the disaster.

Continued media interest has by now made some Alaskans mini-celebrities in the lower 48 states. Mr. Weaverling's Orca Book and Sound shop, for example, is a regular stop for reporters. The bearded former ocean kayak guide and naturalist organized otter-rescue teams during the spill and is an amateur expert on it.

One professional expert, Dr. Riki Ott, a Cordova scientist and environmental activist, is even more popular. Her views have shown up more than 160 times over the last decade in significant publications, including The Dallas Morning News.

Recently the reporters have returned in force. Exxon fielded interview requests involving anniversary stories from at least 40 media outlets this spring.

In Cordova, 51-year-old Patience Faulkner, an occasional spokeswoman for fishermen who sued Exxon, retained a New York public relations firm to help with the onslaught. The fishermen's lawyers advanced the money against future payments, she says.

"They are city people, New York people, but very sensitive to the Natives, to the fishing people," Ms. Faulkner said of the firm.

She says her aim is to publicize the fact that Exxon hasn't paid the $5 billion 1994 judgment and to organize "truth squads" to trail Exxon at an international spill conference this month.

"Any time we can scream and holler, we will," Ms. Faulkner said.

That's no big surprise in this tightly knit village of 2,500, where residents pride themselves on fierce independence and the only vehicles in or out are boats and airplanes. Some locals are currently fighting a state effort to build a bicycle trail to a town 40 miles away, for example.

Many say they will boycott the scientific and transportation meetings scheduled in Valdez and Anchorage around the spill anniversary in favor of a midnight candlelight vigil on their own shores. There, four minutes of silence will be followed by a communal sharing of "feelings and frustrations."

Incomplete recovery

To the casual visitor, it appears from the glistening waters that Prince William Sound surely must have rebounded in the last 10 years.

But last month, a state-federal trustee council created in 1991 to track effects of the spill and oversee spending of Exxon reparation money reported that most fish and wildlife species that were injured have not fully recovered.

Only two of 28 species, the river otter and the bald eagle, are considered back to par, the council said. Eight species have made little or no progress, including killer whales, harbor seals and common loons, the council said.

A decade of economic data isn't much rosier.

The year before the spill, fishing in the sound produced $80 million of revenue, according to the state of Alaska. It has since fallen by half. More than 700 crews held permits then; 500 do now. Back then, a salmon fishing permit was worth $300,000; today it fetches $27, 000.

Current income levels around Prince William Sound are about where they were in 1988, according to state economic research.

Linden O'Toole, a 42-year-old outspoken Cordova former fisherwoman - who became a real estate agent to make ends meet after the spill - blames it all on oil.

She and her husband, Kevin, tell and retell their story of buying a fishing permit shortly before the spill for $300,000, virtually the top of the market, only to find it almost worthless overnight. Today, Mr. O'Toole, who had worked seven years on a fishing crew to save enough for that license, is still despondent, she says. His annual income only covers one month of the family's bills.

But just as experts disagree on the environmental report card, they differ on what's behind some of the economic trends. Though the numbers are down, there's no way to isolate the causes.

Herring catches have certainly shriveled, for example, but some scientists blame a viral infection. Salmon fishing may be suffering because stiff competition from farm-raised fish in Norway and Chile has depressed prices.

Initial prosperity

Ironically, many Alaskans prospered on the spill initially - a fact Exxon notes in response to complaints of long-term economic distress. Personal income nearly doubled in 1989 because of cleanup money poured into the area by Exxon.

Anyone with a boat could collect rates so high that they became derisively known as "spillionaires." Armies of people scrubbed rocks, while others worked on wounded and dying birds and otters.

"From an economic point of view, it was a lovely disaster," said Scott Goldsmith, an economist with the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Not the whole story

But neither he nor other scholars suggest that's the whole story.

The 100 or so residents of Tatitlek - an austere little town built around a stunning Russian Orthodox church - saw their harvests of wild resources fall to a third of their previous levels in the year of the spill, according to federal government surveys.

Since then, the Tatitlek government has received more than $35 million in settlement funds for a variety of projects, from improving docks to conserving vast sections of nearby government-owned wilderness.

But residents today must travel farther and hunt harder to get food, most of it very different from the traditional seal steaks they grew up on, says Mr. Kompkoff, the village chief.

Plus, intangible relationships between many Natives and nature collapsed, says Michael Jennings, a professor in native studies at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

He likens many Natives' reaction to the oiling of the sea to the way Catholics might react to a burning of the Vatican.

The spill "haunts people," and that's hard to put into dollar terms, says Neal Fried, a state economist who visited the sound during the spill and has turned amateur psychologist.

"It's an event that is discussed regularly not because it has been 10 years but because it was a defining moment--and a statewide phenomenon," he says.

Dr. Picou, the Alabama psychologist, says a late-1990s study in Cordova showed a "significant minority" of residents - more than 30 percent - with lingering problems including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and economic losses.

"The sound is recovering much better than humans," said 64-year- old Stan Stephens, a Valdez charter boat operator. "The spill made an impact so deep that every day I am breathing I am not going to let up.

"It's something we will never get over."

List of photos (not reprinted here; see the Dallas Morning News Archives)

  1. (The Boston Globe: Mark Wilson) Biologist Bruce Wright holds a piece of contaminated soil commonly found along an area of Prince William Sound known as the "Death Marsh." Only two of 28 damaged species have fully recovered.
  2. (Associated Press: Jack Smith) Valdez is shown a few months after the 1989 spill. The wreck marked a "loss of innocence," Gov. Tony Knowles said.
  3. (Anchorage Daily News; Erik Hill) In the days after the spill, Stan Stephens, who owns Stan Stephens Charters, ferried people to the scene of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Today, he still worries about the effects of the oil spill on Prince William Sound. The previous year, fishing in the sound produced $80 million in revenue. It now has fallen by half, according to the state of Alaska.

© Copyright 1999 The Dallas Morning News. All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with permission of the Dallas Morning News.
Reprinting here suggests no endorsement by the Dallas Morning News.

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Case out of control, some litigants say

03/14/99

By Mark Curriden / The Dallas Morning News

In its bid to overturn what it calls the "unwarranted and unfair" $5 billion punishment levied by an Alaskan jury for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon Corp. has paid hundreds of lawyers millions of dollars to prepare thousands of pages of documents for scores of appeals.

As the paper piles up, lawyers for the Alaska fishermen and Natives who won the huge suit have said the process is out of control.

But is that correct, or is it merely a supreme display of diligent lawyering? The answer isn't simple. Consider:

While lawyers for the fishermen say Exxon is blatantly trying to duck payment, the company says it is only doing what the book allows.

"For people to criticize Exxon for exercising their legal rights to appeal an unjust verdict is ludicrous," says James Neal, a noted Nashville lawyer who defended Exxon at trial.

And scholars say it's hard to blame Exxon for trying every gambit in that book.

Instead, some blame at least part of the slow pace on U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland. Federal judges have sweeping powers to speed cases along, and Judge Holland has sometimes taken months to make decisions.

"I fully expect Exxon to exploit every legal opportunity to delay and stall this litigation to keep from paying the $5 billion," says Michael Rustad, a law professor at Suffolk University in Boston. "That doesn't mean that the judge ... should not have put a stop to Exxon's delay tactics."

Judge Holland didn't respond to requests for an interview.

Lawyers for the fishermen contend that some of Exxon's arguments now being advanced to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco are legally "frivolous" - meaning they clearly go against widely known precedents and case law. Exxon lawyers bristle at suggestions they'd intentionally put weak reasoning before a federal panel.

However, a group of legal experts who examined, at the request of The Dallas Morning News, motions filed by both sides predict an uphill fight on some key claims. Exxon wants the court to rule that:

© Copyright 1999 The Dallas Morning News. All Rights Reserved
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Reprinting here suggests no endorsement by the Dallas Morning News.

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Exxon finds slow pace of Valdez case profitable

Company says fairness, not money, is the issue

By Mark Curriden / Legal Affairs Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-14-1999
03-14-1999, p. 1A

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Minutes after winning the largest punitive damage verdict ever, elated trial lawyer Brian O'Neill hugged his 3-year- old son Phalen in the U.S. district courthouse here. Just then, Mr. O'Neill recalls, a lawyer for the losing side leaned over and whispered in his ear:

"He'll be in college before you get any of that money."

That was Sept. 16, 1994, and now - nearly five years later - it seems the rival lawyer's prediction just might come true.

Today, Phalen O'Neill is a third-grader back home in Minneapolis, and his dad is nowhere near seeing any of the $5 billion penalty assessed that morning against Exxon Corp. for causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

In what experts call an unprecedented display of resistance - that is quietly paying off in hard dollars and cents - Irving-based Exxon has used its right to appeal to fight tens of thousands of Alaska fishermen and Natives to a standstill after losing that monumental decision in a 41/2-month trial.

A jury of eight women and three men declared Exxon reckless for allowing a captain with a history of alcoholism to sail a giant tanker out of the port of Valdez and into Prince William Sound the evening of March 23, 1989. Just after midnight, the off-course Exxon Valdez crashed onto a reef, dumping 11 million gallons of crude oil into an icy sea prized for its rich fishing and profitable tourism.

Exxon never denied responsibility for the disaster, though it and the skipper both said he wasn't drunk that night. But immediately upon hearing the verdict, chairman Lee Raymond labeled the jury's $5 billion punishment unjust and vowed to "use every legal means available to overturn" it.

Lawyers following the case say they now understand what he meant.

$300 million in fees

Exxon won't disclose its legal bills, but opponents estimate that since the lawsuit began 10 years ago, hundreds of attorneys and paralegals have probably worked 2 million hours on behalf of the company at a cost of about $300 million.

In the five years since the verdict, Exxon has filed more than 60 petitions and appeals, sought 23 time extensions and filed more than 1,000 motions, briefs, requests and demands. It has asked for a reduction in the award, a reversal and a new trial. It has claimed jury misconduct and jury tampering. It has even darkly hinted at a murder plot - all investigated and ultimately dismissed by the original trial judge.

Documents filed by the two sides over the decade amount to about 15 million pages - more than in any federal lawsuit ever. And the case only recently reached a first-level appeals court. Even the most optimistic lawyers for the plaintiffs now predict at least five more years of battle before money changes hands - if any ever does.

"Sometimes I think this litigation will never end," a weary U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland said during one recent hearing. The silver-haired 62-year-old jurist began hearing Exxon Valdez-related cases - both criminal and civil - within months of the spill and has made all of the major legal calls since.

Exxon's appeals, motions and so-called "scorched-earth" tactics have added years to the case, some legal and financial experts say. But the courthouse maneuvers - combined with generous federal tax credits and savvy investing - are allowing Exxon to recover much, if not all, of its costs from the disaster or deflect them onto others, including taxpayers, these authorities say. Some speculate the oil giant might even come out ahead in the end.

"That Exxon has shifted financial burden in this case and could end up paying no money whatsoever should not come as a surprise to anyone," says John Mahedy, a stock market analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

Frank Knuettel, an analyst for Paine Webber, agrees: "Exxon has effectively used the court system and tax laws to its full economic advantage. Some people call it ruthlessness. Other people, especially investors, say it's simply great business."

Company's view

Exxon officials scoff at such talk. They say the company has been sorely punished and is simply engaging its legal rights to appeal a verdict that is unwarranted. They say the humiliation already suffered and the estimated $3.5 billion spent in cleanup costs and to satisfy various court rulings are very real indeed and chastisement enough.

"The people of Alaska should be grateful that it was Exxon involved in this spill," says James Neal, a prominent Nashville lawyer who defended the company at trial. "No other company in the world would have reacted so quickly and so responsibly or spent so much money toward cleanup - most of which went into the hands of the people of Alaska."

Legal analysts also agree Exxon's tactics have been legal, ethical and fully allowed by federal court procedures. None of which impresses Mr. O'Neill, the Minneapolis attorney who won the suit.

"Since the oil spill, Exxon's stock has tripled in value. The company' s net income has more than doubled, and it has enough money to swallow another huge oil conglomerate [Mobil Corp.] to become the largest corporate institution in the world," he says.

"Does that sound like Exxon has suffered?" he asks.

There is no disputing that Exxon paid vast amounts of money as a result of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Immediately after the wreck, about $304 million went to local fishermen and Alaska Natives unable to work on the oiled seas. Later, the company agreed to pay $900 million over 10 years to the state for damaging natural resources. An additional $100 million in restitution went to the federal government, and $25 million was paid in criminal fines for violating environmental laws.

However, lawyers say, Exxon also found ways to get money back.

It structured its agreement with the state and federal governments so that it could deduct all but the $25 million criminal fine from its taxes, they say.

"Not only was Exxon able to write off the entire settlement, but by stretching the payments out over 10 years, . . . [it] was able to collect interest on the money it had yet to pay," says David Oesting, an Anchorage lawyer involved in the huge, separate civil suit against the company.

The tax write-offs and delayed payments reduced Exxon's out-of- pocket costs for the more than $1 billion in state and federal deals to $600 million or $700 million, he figures. According to court records, Exxon still has two more $70 million payments to make under the government agreements.

Exxon has said it spent $2.097 billion cleaning up after the spill, though some Alaskans contend that's an exaggeration. There has never been an independent audit. Exxon has deducted many of those cleanup expenses from its federal taxes, just as it deducted the governmental settlements.

The company won't provide details of its tax returns, but records have surfaced in one court case that show Exxon wrote off more than $2.8 billion for spill-related expenses before 1994.

Another Exxon document from 1994 shows a $1.15 billion corporate tax saving over an unspecified period because of the spill - though the documents don't directly link the $2.8 billion in write-offs and the $1.15 billion in savings. Records after 1994 aren't available. No one has accused Exxon of taking illegal deductions.

Other sources

Exxon has tapped other sources of money, too.

At the same time in 1994 that it was telling an Anchorage jury that its huge cleanup expenses were a reason it shouldn't be hit with heavy damages, the company was suing Lloyds of London and other insurance carriers in Houston seeking reimbursement of many of those outlays.

Initially, Exxon demands exceeded $3 billion, including punitive damages. Finally, through settlements and trials that ended in 1997, it has forced the insurers to repay $1.18 billion of its cleanup tab.

All along, however, the big risk has been the $5 billion in punitive damages Exxon owes Alaska fishermen and Natives. First, the company convinced Judge Holland that it shouldn't have to post bond or set aside funds to guarantee payment of the verdict if its appeals failed - usually a requirement for losing defendants. Exxon argued that it is so big and so wealthy that it could pay with operating cash if it ever had to.

The judge accepted a plan under which Bank of America and 32 other financial institutions guaranteed a $6.75 billion credit line the court could tap automatically in case Exxon's appeals failed and it refused to pay.

"No other corporation or individual would ever be able to convince a court to let it keep control of its money while it fought a jury' s verdict on appeal," says Mr. Oesting. "This is unheard of." That' s important, he and others say, because the Exxon verdict is so huge that time really is money - big money.

On one hand, all during the appeals process, federally mandated interest of 5.9 percent a year accrues on the $5 billion judgment. That's more than $38,000 an hour or $300 million a year added to the verdict if efforts to reverse it fail.

At the same time, financial analysts say that by having full use of that $5 billion in its business since 1994, Exxon has earned far more on the money than the interest charges that are building on it. The return through 1998 alone was more than $3 billion, according to several Wall Street analysts.

Keeps case going

Lawyers for the fishermen and Alaska Natives say that kind of math only encourages Exxon to keep the litigation going and not seek a resolution.

Three or four more years of appeals, and Exxon will not only have earned enough to pay the entire judgment but also will have "manipulated the court system in such a way that they actually make money on this whole deal," says Mr. O'Neill.

That has worried Judge Holland, too. He scolded the company at a 1997 hearing, saying he feared it would "devise any possible procedural roadblock to defer payment" so it could keep making money on its money.

Exxon lawyers deny they are stalling. They say the case is an extraordinarily complex class action that started with more than 30,000 people suing under unsettled maritime-law principles. Throw in the largest oil spill in U.S. history and the highest punitive damages ever, and 10 years of litigation really isn't so long, they say.

Nor does every Exxon legal gambit pay off. In 1996, a secret plan that could have funneled up to $745 million back into Exxon's pockets if it were forced to pay the full $5 billion award backfired badly.

Exxon had cut a private deal five years earlier with a group of fish-processing companies known as the "Seattle Seven" under which it gave them $70 million for their spill claims. In return, they were to seek a piece of any future punitive damages awarded by a court. They would then refund whatever they got to Exxon.

When the processors showed up wanting 15 percent of the $5 billion pie, the secrecy unraveled and the plan blew up. Exxon insists the deal was ethical and legal, but Judge Holland labeled it "repugnant" and "pernicious."

He called Exxon a "Jekyll and Hyde, behaving laudably in public and deplorably in private."

Experts agree that the Exxon Valdez suit holds some unparalleled issues that are grist for legitimate appeals. First is that by any standard, a $5 billion punitive damage award simply may be way out of bounds.

Joke or justification?

Exxon's allegations of inappropriate conduct by a court security officer, rejected by Judge Holland, the trial judge, could also win support, some analysts predict.

The company has repeatedly advanced the theory that jury deliberations were corrupted in various ways, either by jurors or outsiders.

Its most dramatic allegation has been that an armed court guard - now deceased - flashed a bullet in front of some jurors during their nearly two weeks of deliberation and made a remark about another juror who was resisting agreement. Exxon maintains the guard in effect was offering to shoot the recalcitrant juror.

Plaintiffs' lawyers argue the episode was at most a joke and had no influence. But if the story is true, "there's a good chance that' s reversible error," says Texas Tech University law professor William Casto.

Most of Exxon's other appeals are far less colorful.

Consider a fight over a relatively small $30 million award of actual damages to a subgroup of Alaska fishermen called "set-netters," who say oil from the spill hurt the value of their catches.

Judge Holland denied Exxon's pretrial effort to throw the fishermen out. He said a jury had to decide how much, if anything, they were owed. When the jury finally awarded $30 million in 1994, Exxon's lawyers asked the judge to reverse them. He refused.

The company asked him to reverse his refusal. He said no. Cut the amount. No. Exxon filed a fifth motion asking him to reconsider his reconsideration. Again, no.

Now, five years later, Exxon is asking a three-judge appeals panel in San Francisco to eliminate the $30 million award. It says the judge and jury misapplied the law and that it has strong legal arguments.

"I don't know any good lawyer who throws things up in the hopes that something will stick," says John Daum, a Los Angeles Exxon lawyer. "We don't do that."

But Mr. O'Neill, who represents the fishermen, says the company has "wasted more than a year of the court's time and resources and delayed this case on an issue that every court in the country has ruled is completely at the discretion of the jury."

Exxon, he predicts, won't take "no" for an answer in the Exxon Valdez case until it comes from the U.S. Supreme Court.

List of photos (not reprinted here; see the Dallas Morning News Archives)

  1. James Neal,a prominent Nashville lawyer, defended the company at trial.
  2. A technician is shown using high-pressure, high- temperature water to wash crude oil off the rocky shore of Block Island, Alaska, in April 1989. The Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound on March 23, 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of oil. (3-4 Special to the Dallas Morning News: Jim Lavrakas)
  3. Holding his son Phalen, 3, attorney Brian O'Neill is interviewed after the verdict that Exxon was reckless in the oil spill. The finding was in 1994. The boy is now a third-grader, and appeals in the case continue.
  4. David Oesting, an Anchorage lawyer involved in the huge, separate suit against Exxon, says the company has been "able to write off the entire settlement.
    LOCATION NOTE: Photo #3 was not sent to the library for archiving.

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Reprinted with permission of the Dallas Morning News.
Reprinting here suggests no endorsement by the Dallas Morning News.

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