Exxon is ordered to pay dollars 286m for spill

ANCHORAGE (Reuter, AP) - A federal jury yesterday ordered Exxon Corp to pay dollars 286m ( pounds 187m) to more than 10,000 commercial fishermen for damages suffered in the massive March 1989 oil spill off Valdez, Alaska.

The ruling on actual damages, which fell far short of the dollars 895m sought by the fishermen, followed deliberations in the second phase of a complex three-part trial.

The verdict came after 23 days of deliberations over claims made by the fishermen, who work the waters of Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Kodiak Island.

The fishermen had sought dollars 895m for damage to fishing grounds and prices - damage that they said continues to the present. Exxon had put the fishermen's losses at a maximum of dollars 113m, with the vast majority occurring in 1989.

In the next phase of the trial, which is expected to begin later this month, the jury will determine whether Exxon should be assessed up to dollars 15bn in punitive damages for its role in the US's worst oil spill.

The possibility of punitive damages was opened on 13 June when the jury determined that recklessness by Exxon and a supertanker captain, Joseph Hazelwood, had contributed to the disaster, in which Alaska's Prince William Sound was fouled with 11m gallons (41.6m litres) of crude oil after the ship ran aground.