Punitive Damages in Maryland: More on the Exxon Trial

The Daily Record has another article on the Exxon case in Jacksonville that I had blogged about yesterday. What was interesting, at least to me, is that one Plaintiffs’ lawyer gave the closing and another Plaintiffs’ lawyer gave the rebuttal. Even in large trials involving multiple lawyers for each party, I think this is a little surprising. But I don’t think it is a bad thing.

Without reading the pleadings, I’m amazed that the punitive damages have gone to the jury. The Plaintiffs’ attorneys have three hurdles to climb to get punitive damages: (1) the jury, (2) the judge, who still may rule against them, and (3) Maryland appellate courts, who most certainly will hear this case if Plaintiffs get past the first two steps.
I’ve read the Maryland Daily Record and the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of this case from the beginning. What I still can’t begin to guess is how strong of a case this is for Plaintiffs and what the settlement offer was, if any, before trial. I would believe $100 million and I would believe $100,000. I just do not have any sense of it. I do think the Plaintiffs have two strong things outside of the facts that help: (1) a Baltimore County jury deciding on a case involving 90 Baltimore County homeowners (there has to be a bond there), and (2) Exxon is hardly a sympathetic defendant in general, or particularly, in association with the words “oil spill.”

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