In a retrial of a case which earlier led to an exorbitant punitive damages award, an Alabama jury two weeks ago ordered ExxonMobil to pay $63.6 million in compensatory damages and $11.8 billion in punitive damages to the cash-strapped state government in a dispute over natural gas royalties ("Alabama jury orders Exxon Mobil to pay $11.9 billion in dispute over natural gas royalties", AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 14; Phillip Rawls, AP/Miami Herald, Nov. 13). A former state administration had hired two of the state's most successful private trial lawyers, Jere Beasley and Robert Cunningham, to take the case on a 14 percent contingency, which in this case would amount to $1.6 billion in fees; the two lawyers are also important campaign contributors. Earlier verdict: Dec. 20, 2000. Editorial reactions: "The truly ridiculous", Huntsville Times, Nov. 17; "Exxessive verdict", Birmingham News, Nov. 19; "Don't over-celebrate ExxonMobil verdict", Mobile Register, Nov. 17. Update Apr. 18: judge cuts verdict to $3.6 billion. Further update Nov. 8, 2007: Alabama Supreme Court throws out punitives.
[cross-posted from Overlawyered, where it ran Dec. 1, 2003]