After Barack Obama forced BP to set aside $20 billion to pay for the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, look at other landmark payouts from corporations around the world.
Exxon Valdez oil spill
Prior to current leak off the coast of America the Exxon Valdez oil spill was the worst oil slick when it occurred off Alaska in March 1989.
An oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, hit Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef and spilled an estimated minimum 250,000 barrels of crude oil.
An Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5billion for punitive damages – equal to one year’s profit for the oil company at the time.
Exxon appealed an on December 6, 2002, the judge announced that he had reduced the damages to $4 billion. Exxon appealed again and Judge Holland increased the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest.
After more appeals, and oral arguments heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 27, 2006, the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion on December 22, 2006.
Bhopal gas leak
Ranked as one of the world’s worst ever industrial catastrophes the Bhopal disaster or Bhopal Gas Tragedy occurred on the night of December 3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.
The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths. Others estimate that 8,000 died within the first weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.
In June 2010, seven ex-employees, including the former chairman of UCIL, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by law.
In 1999, a settlement was reached under which UCC agreed to pay US$470 million (the insurance sum, plus interest) in a full and final settlement of its civil and criminal liability.
When UCC wanted to sell its shares in UCIL, it was directed by the Supreme Court to finance a 500-bed hospital for the medical care of the survivors. Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) was inaugurated in 1998. It was obliged to give free care for survivors for eight years.
PG&E vs Hinkley, California
Pacific Gas and Electric Company settled a $333 million payout to residents of Hinkley in California. At the center of the case was a facility called the Hinkley Compressor Station, part of a natural gas pipeline connecting to the San Francisco Bay Area and constructed in 1952. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium to fight corrosion in the cooling tower. The wastewater dissolved the hexavalent chromium from the cooling towers and was discharged to unlined ponds at the site. Some of the wastewater percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area near the plant approximately two miles long and nearly a mile wide.
The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in US history.
Another lawsuit, which lists 1,200 plaintiffs, alleges contamination near PG&E’s Kettleman Hills Compressor Station in King’s County, California, along the same pipeline as the Hinkley site. The Kettleman suit settled for $335 million in 2006.
The UK’s largest ever industrial injury compensation payout was settled by the government in March 1999.
Around £1.5 billion damages was set aside for 65,000 former miners suffering from debilitating lung diseases.
The Department of Trade and Industry took over responsibility for the liabilities after British Coal was privatised.
Later however a £6.9billion miners’ compensation scheme was set up by the Government because of British Coal’s lack of safety standards.
This led to hundreds of thousands of claims from former miners and their families.
In 2001 the tobacco giant Philip Morris was ordered to pay more than £2 billion in compensation to a man whose nicotine addiction left him with incurable cancer.
The Los Angeles jury decided Philip Morris did not properly warn Richard Boeken of the risks of smoking.
It ordered Philip Morris to pay him £2 billion in punitive damages and £3.5m in general damages after finding the company guilty of six counts of fraud, negligence and making a defective product.
The award is the largest individual punitive damage award ever to a cigarette smoker.
The largest judgement against the tobacco industry was $145 billion awarded last year to thousands of Florida smokers in a class action lawsuit.
- Historic Fla. tobacco plaintiff Engle dies
- Judge cuts $300M smoker’s lawsuit award to $39M
- Smoker wins $8 million verdict
- Woman files lawsuit against big tobacco
- $17.3 million verdict against Lorillard in Jacksonville, FL