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ExxonValdez 11-13

Exxon Valdez payout upheld

A federal judge has rejected a seafood company’s request to rewrite a plan for dividing punitive damages to be awarded from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Barring an appeal of Wednesday’s ruling, lawyers hope to begin handing out punitive damages to fishermen, cannery workers, landowners, Alaska Natives and other claimants in the yearslong legal battle with Exxon Mobil Corp.

The tanker Exxon Valdez hit a reef on March 23, 1989, and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, fouling beaches and killing fish and other wildlife.

In his ruling Wednesday, Judge H. Russel Holland said Seattle-based Sea Hawk Seafoods Inc. had agreed years ago to a complex plan worked out among the lawsuit’s many plaintiffs on how to divide the punitive damages. Sea Hawk operated a fish-processing plant in Valdez.

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An Anchorage jury in 1994 awarded plaintiffs $5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon fought the award, arguing it already had paid billions to clean up the spill and compensate fishermen and others.

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