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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill


The Exxon-Valdez oil spill is considered to be one of the biggest man-made environmental disasters that has ever affected the United States. The oil spill was caused when an oil tanker, the Exxon-Valdez, hit Bligh Reef in the Gulf of Alaska in March of 1989. The tanker was carrying 54.1 million gallons of oil that was being shipped to Long Beach, California; of this, it is estimated that 11 million gallons spilled into Prince William Sound, a seaway located about 100 miles southeast of Anchorage, AK.

Ecological and Economic Consequences

The oil spill adversely affected the health of birds, fish, plants, and other marine life that rely on the health of the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem to thrive. Thousands of clams, herring, salmon, sea otters, birds, and seals died in the spill. This threw off the balance of the local environment and the local economy. In addition to the fishing industry, shipping, boating, recreational sports, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses and workers in the area suffered significant monetary losses.

Causes of the Oil Spill

The Exxon-Valdez crash into the reef is believed to be caused by a number of factors. First, experts say that the Exxon Shipping Company did not repair the tanker's sonar system, which could have alerted crew to the presence of the reef. Second, the third mate, who was driving the ship at the time of the accident, did not properly execute maneuvers that would have allowed the ship to avoid a collision with the reefs; this may have been due to work overload and lack of sufficient rest. Finally, the Exxon Shipping Company did not provide a properly supervised and competent crew to navigate the vessel.

Exxon-Valdez Litigation

About 38,000 plaintiffs filed lawsuits against the Exxon Mobil Corporation (formerly the Exxon Corporation). A $5.287 billion settlement was awarded to plaintiffs in 1994; however, the U.S. Supreme Court reduced that award to $507.5 million in June of 1998.

Contact an Attorney

If your life has been adversely affected by an oil spill, you may be entitled to damages. Contact an attorney to find out if you have a case.

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