Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sad Day for Justice in Alaska- Exxon Escapes Most Punitives

It is a sad day for justice here in Alaska where the majority of plaintiffs (including the authors of this blog) in the Exxon Valdez damages case reside. It was nearly 20 years ago that an alcoholic skipper drove the super tanker onto Bligh Reef setting off a chain of destruction that impacted coastal life and economies throughout much of Alaska. Today the U.S. Supreme Court slashed the punitive damages awarded against Exxon to approximately 1/10 of the amount that an Alaska jury had established as punishment for the oil company's reckless behaviour.

WSJ Blog-

Anchorage Daily News article-

Thus the collective wisdom that resides in a jury has been tossed aside and Exxon is free of any serious threat to its bottom line no matter how recklessly they operate their tankers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Turning Our Courts into a "Frenetic Debt Collection Machine"

We picked up this story today from Public Citizen's Consumer Law & Policy Blog-

Chicago Court System a "Frenetic Debt Collections Machine"

The Chicago Tribune has this interesting article on the state of debt collections in Chicago, noting that Cook County courts are clogged with more than 119,000 civil lawsuits against alleged debtors. Many of these cases involve mistaken identities or debts that have already been paid.

Even a cursory check of the district court filings at the Alaska State Court's Courtview site will show that Alaska too is cursed with overly-aggressive debt collectors mass filing suits, often on very questionable evidence of debt.

One additional factor driving the debt collection industry in Alaska is that the debt collector who gains a default judgment then can move to attach 80% of the defendant's permanent fund dividend. By Alaska statute, no other personal exemptions can protect that 80% of the dividend, no matter how important the money is to put food on the table or pay the property taxes on the family home.

Anyone facing such a suit, no matter how questionable its foundation, should answer and force the debt collector to prove there actually is a debt owed and that the debt collector has a legitimate right to claim the debt. If you ignore a summons, your problems will get worse.