Exxon Hit with $105 Million Jury Verdict in Multidistrict Litigation over Gas Additive
The Litigation Daily
October 20, 2009
The jury's verdict Monday followed an 11-week trial before Manhattan federal district court judge Shira Scheindlin. The case was the first to go to trial in multidistrict litigation consolidated in New York over MTBE contamination throughout the United States. Representing the city were Susan Amron of the New York City Law Department, Victor Sher of Sher Leff, and Bob Chapman of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger. Peter Sacripanti of McDermott was the lead attorney for Exxon.
The city alleged that Exxon's use of MTBE led to groundwater contamination as a result of leaks at gas stations. Exxon, the city contended, knew about the dangers of MTBE but didn't alert gasoline station owners, government agencies, or the public. New York State banned MTBE in 2004.
"This is an important result for cities and water utilities everywhere," said Sher in a statement. "It makes clear that even the biggest corporation in the world must protect drinking water and pay to clean it up when their products pollute it."
Exxon was the lone holdout from a group of large oil companies that have settled MTBE claims with New York. That group, which included Shell, BP, Chevron, Citgo, Hess, and Sunco, settled for a total of $15 million, according to the city.
Exxon maintains that it did not contribute to the water pollution. Sacripanti told Bloomberg an appeal would be forthcoming. "Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result,” he said. “We wouldn’t have tried the case if we didn’t think we were absolutely right. And we look forward to vindication.”