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US high court won't hear Exxon Louisiana appeal

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N appeal over $112 million in punitive damages awarded for radioactive contamination of a 33-acre tract of industrial property in Harvey, Louisiana.

Without comment, the high court refused to review the award that the giant oil company had challenged. The punitive damages had been awarded to the property owners for the contamination from the cleaning at the site by an oilfield service company of Exxon Mobil drill pipes.

A jury initially awarded the property owners $56 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages, an amount reduced on appeal to $112 million. Only the punitive damages were at issue before the U.S. high court.

The Supreme Court last year sent the case back to the state court for further consideration in view of its ruling in another punitive damages case, but a Louisiana court of appeals reaffirmed the $112 million award against the company.

Attorneys for the property owners told the Supreme Court that Exxon Mobil’s voluntary and unconditional payment of the award constituted a waiver of any issues on appeal and made the company’s appeal moot.

In a separate case, the Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of June whether to overturn a lower court ruling of $2.5 billion in punitive damages that Exxon Mobil must pay for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska. (Reporting by James Vicini, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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