CLEANING UP by David Lebedoff


The Exxon Valdez Case, From 3 Drinks to 5 Billion Dollars
Email this review


 A blow-by-blow account of legal actions taken against the Exxon Corporation in the wake of the March 23, 1989, Exxon Valdez disaster. Reading this book by attorney/novelist Lebedoff (Ward Number Six, 1972) is much like watching one of the new-realism courtroom dramas on network TV: The pace is hectic; the actors are strapping he-men or (as Lebedoff writes of a young prosecutor) doubles for Daryl Hannah, their characters transparently evil or good; and the script is packed with enough technical detail to satisfy the demand for verisimilitude. Thus, you will learn how lawyers bill clients for their time, how legal reputations are made and broken, and even how toxicologists determine hours after the fact how much alcohol a person may have consumed before, say, an arrest for reckless driving. The last issue was key to the notorious Valdez case, in which Captain Joseph Hazelwood, not long after consuming numerous shots of distilled spirits, left the bridge of the oil tanker he commanded, ordering a subordinate to steer it past a dangerous reef off the Alaska coast. The untested subordinate steered the massive ship onto the rocks; millions of gallons of oil spilled into the waters, ruining ecosystems and fisheries. Lebedoff's hero, plaintiff's attorney Brian Boru O'Neill, instantly leaps into action, arguing that Exxon knew Hazelwood was an alcoholic and that the company itself was therefore responsible for the huge environmental disaster. Through twists and turns of argument, which take up most of the book, O'Neill comes to convince a dozen jurors of the justice of his cause--and to extract a $5 billion settlement against the petroleum giant. Why that sum, the largest ever awarded in a class-action suit? Lebedoff explains the calculus down to the last cent, which should make this book of particular interest to budding attorneys. Lebedoff's narrative is far more satisfying than any John Grisham concoction, and it affords an illuminating look at the legal system today.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83706-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997


NonfictionTOO BIG TO JAIL by Brandon L. Garrett
by Brandon L. Garrett
NonfictionLAW OF THE JUNGLE by Paul M. Barrett
by Paul M. Barrett
NonfictionPRIVATE EMPIRE by Steve Coll
by Steve Coll