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Monday, November 5, 2007

Massive Valdez verdict remains slippery for Faegre

Even when you finally get to sink your harpoon into the great white whale, it usually takes a while for your diligence to pay off. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, after all.

Witness poor Faegre & Benson attorney Brian O'Neill (picture on right). O'Neill is mentioned in today's Star Tribune for his representation of Alaska fishermen and residents in the lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. over the infamous Valdez oil spill nearly two decades ago.

Originally, O'Neill's clients were awarded $5 billion in punitive damages. That amount was lowered to $4 billion, raised to $4.5 billion and lowered back down to $2.5 billion in the tortuous history of post-trial wrangling. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in order to to decide if $2.5 billion is an appropriate award.

O'Neill definitely is a contender for quote of the week for putting the lengthy litigation into perspective: "I was 41 when I started this case and now I'm 60," he told the Strib.

It might be OK that O'Neill could be retirement age before his firm gets its cut. The fee is likely to be one of the largest in state history unless the punitive-damage award is completely eviscerated. One can only imagine what O'Neill's share would be if Faegre does indeed get a nine-figure payday out of this. It almost certainly would be enough to retire on -- you know, once you add in Social Security and all ...

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