Personal Injury

Judge upholds verdict favoring families hurt by massive gas leak

A Circuit Court Judge in Maryland has upheld the verdict of a jury that awarded $150 million to the residents of a Baltimore County community living in proximity to a service station owned by Exxon Mobil Corp. In 2006, an underground pipe at the station leaked 26,000 gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of four tankers full, into the surrounding land. The leak occurred over a five week period and resulted in massive environmental damage.

A group of 89 families from Jacksonville, Maryland, took Exxon Mobil to court last year, alleging the leak damaged their property, hurt their property values, and compromised their health.

The 5-month trial concluded in March with a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. $71 million was awarded for non-economic damages and $61 million for lost property values. An additional $14 million was awarded to the plaintiffs and their families for cancer screenings and other medical evaluations. Residents affected by the gas leak remain concerned about personal injuries caused by the contamination that are unseen now but could be discovered in the future. The plaintiffs did not seek punitive damages.

The presiding judge reduced the damages by up to $4 million, taking into account a cap set by state law for compensatory damages and the land value of four families affected by the gas contamination who managed to sell their properties.

Exxon Mobil says the damages awarded are excessive, but the presiding judge disagreed, indicating that he would have overturned the ruling had he found the award unreasonable. A spokesman for Exxon Mobil said that the company is likely to appeal the verdict.