Justinian Lane

Washington Post Critiques Exxon Decision

Very nice editorial:

No doubt they were throwing back double vodkas at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week following the Supreme Court's decision to cut the punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez oil spill to a week's worth of Exxon Mobil's profits.

The chamber, through two affiliates, the National Chamber Litigation Center and the Institute for Legal Reform, has waged a decade-long campaign to make it harder -- much harder -- for businesses to be sued for their mistakes or their fraudulent behavior and to limit damage awards in those cases that manage to get to a jury.

It is also worth noting that Souter rejected another argument made by the chamber: that punitive damages in areas such as environmental protection are a form of double jeopardy because businesses are also subject to extensive government regulation and prosecution. Perhaps Souter was too polite to point out that the chamber and its business allies have spent decades trying to eviscerate the very government regulation and enforcement that they now claim should preempt private penalties. This is the kind of hypocrisy we've come to expect from the chamber, which basically takes the view that the only good regulation is self-regulation.

At the same time, however, it ought to be equally offensive to our sense of justice that corporate defendants are routinely allowed to manipulate the judicial process with an endless stream of motions, depositions and appeals, many as frivolous as anything served up by the plaintiff's bar. For years, federal and state judges have turned a blind eye to this obvious and rampant abuse of process, which rivals anything conjured up by Charles Dickens in his famous novel, "Bleak House." Symbolically, the case of Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker is to 21st-century jurisprudence what Dickens' Jarndyce v. Jarndyce was to the 19th century.  Source:

Steven Pearlstein - Altering the Economics of Civil Litigation -

Check the whole thing out.

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Posted at 10:20 PM, Jul 06, 2008 in News
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Why not post the Washington Times' reaction to the decision. It is (usually) the more reasoned publication and definitely not a house for the Democratic Party), unlike the Post, which tilts leeward (although admittedly not as much so as the New York Times)

Posted by: Paul W Dennis | July 6, 2008 11:44 PM

Thanks for the link to this article, Justinian. Awesome.

And Paul, let's be fair to Washington Post and New York Times--they publish tons of corporate-lobby propaganda too (ex: NYT's Tort War thing and some of WaPo's ignorant stuff about binding mandatory arbitration). From time to time they can be just as pro-corporation/anti-little guy as the Washington Times.

Posted by: Kia | July 7, 2008 12:41 PM

I too oppose damage caps and punitive damage caps. When the class action lawsuit is filed against the criminal cult hierarchy, I do not want any artificial limit on compensation to the victims of their carelessness and of their rent seeking scienter. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | July 7, 2008 1:37 PM