Exxon Mobil Corp. has been ordered to pay more than $1.5 billion in damages to 160 families and businesses affected by a 2006 gasoline leak in Maryland.
Jurors awarded more than $1 billion in punitive damages on Thursday, after earlier awarding $495 million in compensatory damages. The ruling in Baltimore County Circuit Court follows a $150 million award in 2009 involving about 90 households, which Exxon is appealing. The Irving, Texas-based oil company said the facts do not support the latest ruling and that it will appeal it as well.
The 2006 leak occurred in Jacksonville, a small, affluent community about 20 miles north of Baltimore. An underground pipe burst beneath an Exxon gas station, allowing more 26,000 gallons of gasoline to escape. Many residents get their water from wells and the spill led the state to order well monitoring in the area to judge contamination. The plaintiffs had claimed lost property values as well as emotional stress.
"As we've stated throughout the last five years, we sincerely regret this unfortunate accident. We apologize to the Jacksonville community and have devoted significant resources to clean-up, recovery and remediation activities," Exxon said in a statement. "As soon as the leak was discovered, we immediately took responsibility and, sparing no expense, began cleanup activities working under the Maryland Department of Environment's oversight and direction."
Exxon Mobil asked the Maryland Department of the Environment in January 2010 for approval to stop monitoring some of the 248 private wells near the Jacksonville station. MDE agreed to the oil company's request to stop monitoring 130 of the wells. Exxon Mobil also stopped delivering bottled water to those homes.
Exxon shares rose 44 cents to $81.82 in afternoon trading.