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Jury selected for second Exxon trial

Fourteen jurors have been selected to hear the second mass-action lawsuit against ExxonMobil Corp. stemming from a 25,000-plus-gallon leak in Jacksonville nearly five years ago.

The jurors were picked Monday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, the fifth day of jury selection.

Prospective jurors steadily filed into Judge Robert N. Dugan’s courtroom beginning Nov. 29 even though the trial itself is not scheduled to begin until Jan. 3.  The trial is expected to last six months, and lawyers on both sides agreed to delay its start until after the holiday season.

Theodore M. Flerlage Jr. of The Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC in Towson confirmed a jury was selected and the trial start date. John E. Griffith Jr. of DLA Piper in Baltimore, ExxonMobil’s local counsel, did not return calls seeking comment.

The plaintiffs, collectively known as the Allison plaintiffs, consist of approximately 450 individuals and 150 households.

The gasoline leak began Jan. 13, 2006, but was not discovered until 37 days later after an inventory discrepancy was noticed. Exxon has said a leak detector sounded the first day but that technicians responding to the station improperly reset it, essentially rendering it incapable of sounding an alert again.

Meanwhile, Exxon is still appealing the verdicts from the first trial, which ended in March 2009 with awards totaling about $150 million in damages to nearly 300 plaintiffs from 88 households. The plaintiffs in that were represented by a different lawyer, Stephen L. Snyder, and his then-law firm, Snyder, Weltchek & Snyder.

The first trial also had 14 jurors, six of whom ultimately deliberated and eight alternates. They were selected from an original panel of 355 over the course of seven days.