Exxon Gas Spill Lawsuit Verdict of $150M Will Stand in Maryland

A $150 million jury verdict against Exxon Mobil Corp. was upheld last week by a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge, who determined that the damages awarded to residents of a Maryland community for property value losses and other damages caused by a 2006 gas spill, were high, but not excessive enough to toss the verdict.

The decision by Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr. is likely to be appealed by Exxon Mobil, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. The gas company argued that the verdict was excessive, but Judge Baldwin found that the verdict did not shock the conscience or go against the weight of the evidence.

The award was reduced by about $3 or $4 million after applying the Maryland damages cap and factoring in how much some property owners received after selling their property.

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The environmental tort lawsuit was brought against Exxon Mobil by 89 families living near a gas station in Jacksonville, Md., north of Baltimore City. The complaint alleged that the residents suffered property damage and other injuries from a gas spill in 2006, where an underground pipe from the gas station leaked 26,000 gallons of gasoline, about four tankers worth, into the ground water over a period of five weeks.

Following a five-month trial that ended in March, a Baltimore County jury awarded the plaintiffs $71 million in non-economic damages, $61 million for lost property values, and $14 million for residents to receive medical monitoring due to fears of cancer and other personal injury.

Judge Baldwin indicated that he would have overturned the verdict if he found the awards to be excessive or grossly excessive, but said that the jury’s award stayed just “a millimeter shy” of falling into that category.

A motion filed by plaintiffs to cut off Exxon’s ability to file post-trial motions was also rejected by Judge Baldwin. Plaintiffs argued that the Exxon Mobile attorneys agreed not to appeal a verdict that did not include punitive damages in their closing arguments in the original trial. Judge Baldwin ruled that a fair reading of the closing arguments did not lead him to that conclusion.


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