Maryland Environmental Lawsuit Verdict of $150M Over Exxon Gas Spill

A Baltimore County jury returned verdicts totaling about $150 million in a Maryland environmental tort lawsuit filed against Exxon over a 2006 gas spill that leaked more than 25,000 gallons of fuel into the well water of the surrounding homes.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of over 300 residents in Jacksonville, Maryland, a small town about 20 minutes north of Baltimore City.

In January 2006, a pipe was punctured at an Exxon gas station, causing unleaded gasoline to leak into the surrounding soil for over a month.

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The jurors returned 88 separate verdicts for the owners of 90 different properties, awarding damages for diminution of property value, medical monitoring and non-economic damages.

The average amount awarded to each property owner was $693,000, with a combined award of more than $61 million for lost property values in the area.

The jury awarded an average of $164,000 per household ($14 million total) for medical monitoring because of their exposure to the gasoline additive methyltertiary butyl ether (MTBE), which could potentially cause cancer.

Plaintiffs also received awards for non-economic damages for their pain, suffering and inconvenience, which averaged $500,000 per adult and $50,000 per child (total of more than $71 million). However, some of the non-economic damage awards were nearly $1 million, which will be reduced to $665,000 under the Maryland cap on damages.

The environmental lawsuit sought punitive damages because the plaintiffs alleged that Exxon was aware that they had inadequate equipment to detect a potential leak and ignored the potential for serious injury and damage to surrounding residents. However, the jury did not find that Exxon committed fraud in connection with the gasoline leak and no punitive damages were awarded.

The nearly five month trial ended February 27, 2009, and the jury deliberated for one and a half weeks before returning their verdict.


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