Thursday, July 17, 2008

Exxon fights paying interest on reduced judgment

Exxon, the most profitable company in the history of the world (earning $40.61 billion last year), recently enjoyed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which slashed roughly $2 billion of punitive damages awarded against it in 1994 over the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The plaintiffs - over 32,000 Alaskans - have now asked the court to award $488 million in interest on top of the reduced damages, something that is routine in virtually every case and which recognizes the interest that money owed to the plaintiffs would have earned had the defendant paid the debt when it was due.

Now in a move that must make even the most hardcore, pro-business tort-reformer blush, Exxon has asked the court to deny the plaintiffs interest because “the substantial delay here was not in any sense Exxon’s fault.” Uh, weren’t they the losers at trial who appealed the judgment in the first place?

Exxon’s shameful audacity knows no bounds. And if the Supremes rule in their favor, the take-over of that court by Big Business appears complete.

5 Good Things

I sat with an old friend yesterday for about an hour and was struck by how 95% of our conversation was about doom-and-gloom topics, notably the economy, the war on terrorism, politics, and rampant consumerism. He said, "Damn, I was born during a depression and it looks like I'll die in one. I'll bet you can't come up with a list of 5 good things to talk about right now."

I like a challenge. My first list of 5 Good Things:

1. My wife and our kids (technically, that's 3 good things but I'll lump them all together in the spirit of the challenge).

2. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. I don't know much about baseball, very little about the Rangers, and hardly anything about Hamilton, but apparently he has overcome some personal problems and now his career has really taken off. From what I have read about him, it sounds like he's really turned his life around and he looks like he's having a blast. Not to mention he set some record for knocking homers in a recent home-run derby. Hat's off to Josh.

3. Drivers in Fort Worth. Generally speaking, we're a pretty courteous bunch of drivers. As a Dallas friend observed, "Drivers in Fort Worth still wave with all fingers." Let's try to keep it up.

4. Cucumber salad. Perfect for summer.

5. Dara Torres. 41-year old mom wins a spot on the US Olympic swim team. Competed in her first Olympics the year before Michael Phleps was born. Very cool.

Dang, coming up with this list is harder than I thought. And two of them are athletes. I hope this gets easier.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Good perspective from an insurance-defense lawyer in Mississippi

Great op-ed in today's Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi by insurance-defense lawyer Alex Alston (certainly no bomb-throwing liberal trial lawyer) about how that state's high court has shifted to protecting businesses and insurers over injured consumers. Switch the states and names and he could as well be describing the Texas Supreme Court.

Notable among Alston's comments are these:

"Our entire judicial system is built on a "rule of law." In other words, it makes no difference whether you are a prince or a pauper, the law must be precisely the same for all. A court that substitutes its opinion for that of a jury, or simply decides a case for the benefit of a favored party, tears the basic fabric of our judicial system to shreds. If the rule of law is not followed, the entire foundation of our judicial system is undermined. The public has a right to expect the Supreme Court to follow the rule of law and decide the cases before it fairly and impartially without favor to any party regardless of status, race, creed or color...Should we not demand that [they] follow the rule of law? Certainly it is a fair question to ask why 88 percent of the time, the court reverses a jury verdict for a plaintiff and substitutes its own opinion, and why, in 100 percent of the cases involving an injured victim's appeals from a jury verdict in favor of a defendant, the court finds for the wealthy or powerful defendant. Our court must be more than a rubber stamp for the rich and powerful. Shouldn't we expect that and more?"

Well said.