PUNITIVE DAMAGES IN MARITIME LAW: THE US SUPREME COURT'S JUDGMENT IN THE CASE OF EXXON SHIPPING V. BAKER ('Punitive damages' w prawie morskim - orzeczenia Sadu Najwyzszego USA w sprawie Exxon Shipping v. Baker)
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Punitive damages is a quasi-punishment that aims at prevention. It is not known under European law. They are awarded in exceptional circumstances. Its purpose is to punish the perpetrator of an insidious and intentional illegal action. The authoress describes the story of the tanker Exxon Valdez, which struck rocks off the coast of Alaska on 23 March 1989. The captain Joseph Hazelwood was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Because of the resultant pollution thousands of fishermen applied for compensation, as did the owners of businesses connected with the maritime environment and of shoreline real estate. Exxon Shipping reached many settlements with plaintiffs, but thirty-two thousand fishermen and owners of shoreline property rejected settlements, and sued Exxon demanding indemnity and the imposition of punitive damages. On 16 September 1994 a jury imposed punitive damages to the sum five thousand million dollars along with an indemnity of 507.5 million dollars. On appeal the quasi punishment was reduced to 4.5 thousand million dollars. The Appeal Court fixed punitive damages at 2.5 thousand million dollars. Both sides appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court considered whether the punitive damages imposed on Exxon were consistent with the principles of maritime law. On 25 June 2008 it finally determined that in cases similar to that of Exxon Shipping the relation of punitive damages to indemnity should be 1:1, and reduced 2.5 thousand million dollars to 507.5 million dollars, which was the indemnity awarded to the plaintiffs.
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