Nearly 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, the company asked the Supreme Court to reject a ruling that it pay $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Judges appeared split in today's arguments, USA Today reports, making a tie possible because Samuel Alito has recused himself. If that happens, the punitive damages stand. The court also could reduce the amount.
Exxon argues it's already paid enough—$3.4 billion in cleanup costs—and that punitive damages don't apply to maritime law. The attorney for Alaskans told justices that the company must be held accountable for recklessness. "We're talking about punishment and deterrence," said Jeffrey Fisher.