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Moot Court Finals May 5 To Consider Damages in Exxon Valdez Disaster

The Morris Tyler Moot Court of Appeals at Yale Law School will be called to order at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 5, in the Law School’s Levinson Auditorium.  Students will compete in the Thurman Arnold Prize Finals of the competition. Members of the Yale Law School community are welcome to attend.

The Honorable Marsha Berzon (9th Circuit Court of Appeals), the Honorable Brett Kavanaugh (D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals), and the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor (2nd Circuit Court of Appeals) will hear the case of Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, which addresses how much Exxon Shipping Company must pay for the 1989 accident in which the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of oil. An Alaska federal jury awarded $5 billion in punitive damages against Exxon. The Ninth Circuit later reduced the award to $2.5 billion.

The court will consider whether the $2.5 billion punitive damages award is within the limits allowed by federal maritime law and the Clean Water Act, and whether punitive damages may be imposed against a shipowner for the conduct of the ship’s captain.

“The Exxon case is the culmination of a thirteen-year-long legal battle arising from one of the most harmful environment torts in U.S. history,” said Moot Court co-chair Richard Re. “Whether the jury’s unprecedentedly large $2.5 billion punitive damages award can stand will depend on how the Court interprets centuries-old maritime law and the meaning of the modern Clean Water Act.”

Raj Laud ’08 and Abbas Ravjani ’09 will argue for the petitioner, Exxon Shipping. Sumon Dantiki ’09 and Joshua Johnson’ 09 will represent the respondent, Grant Baker.

The finalists’ briefs are available at www.yale.edu/mootcourt.