WHEN the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, it created a slick of legal suits. Lloyd Miller, an attorney for some of the native groups suing Exxon Corporation, estimates that there are about 250 to 275 cases filed in United States District Court and Alaska Superior Court for damages stemming from the spill.
Cases are still being filed, even though the second anniversary - and, some say, the statute of limitations - has passed. Mr. Miller says there are about 4,000 named plaintiffs, and about 35,000 to 40,000 represented in classes that have filed suit.
Plaintiffs include: commercial fishermen and fishermen's groups; principalities and local governments; the state of Alaska; individual area residents; native villages and corporations; fish processor workers and others in fishing-industry support businesses; tourist business owners; environmental groups; and Exxon stockholders.
On the federal level, the US Justice Department charged Exxon and its subsidiary, Exxon Shipping Co., with violations of the Clean Water Act, the Refuse Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Exxon and Exxon Shipping were also charged with felony violations of the Dangerous Cargo Act and the Ports and Waterways Safety Act.
In the civil and criminal settlement, Exxon Corp. pleaded guilty to a Migratory Bird Treaty Act violation, while Exxon Shipping pled guilty to all three misdemeanor charges.