Opening statements are set to begin Monday in the second mass-action lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. stemming from a more than 25,000-gallon leak at a Jacksonville gas station — the same day the Court of Special Appeals will take up the $150 million verdict from the first lawsuit.
Fourteen jurors were selected in Baltimore County Circuit Court for the second trial last month, but lawyers on both sides agreed to delay the start until after the holidays. The trial in Judge Robert N. Dugan’s courtroom is expected to last six months.
The plaintiffs, collectively known as the Allison plaintiffs, consist of approximately 450 individuals and 150 households. They are represented by The Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC in Towson, led by Theodore M. Flerlage Jr.
Nashville, Tenn., lawyer James F. Sanders will lead Exxon Mobil’s defense, as he did in the first trial. John E. Griffith Jr., a partner at DLA Piper LLP US in Baltimore, is the company’s local counsel.
The gasoline leak began Jan. 13, 2006, but was not discovered until more than five weeks later after an inventory discrepancy was noticed. Exxon Mobil 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.
The 300 plaintiffs and 88 households in the first trial — collectively known as the Alban plaintiffs — were awarded about $150 million in damages in March 2009 after a five-month trial. The verdict included $71 million in non-economic damages, $61 million for diminution of property value and more than $14 million in medical monitoring. Jurors did not award punitive damages on charges of fraud by concealment against Exxon Mobil, as the plaintiffs sought.
Visiting Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr., who presided over the trial, upheld nearly all the verdict in September 2009, although he wrote he was “very tempted” to reduce damages awarded for the plaintiffs’ homes, which essentially amounted to their pre-leak value.
Stephen L. Snyder of Snyder & Snyder in Pikesville, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, will argue their case before the appellate panel. Snyder’s then-law firm of Snyder, Weltchek & Snyder represented the plaintiffs at trial. Charles P. Scheeler, a partner at DLA Piper in Baltimore, will argue on behalf of Exxon in Annapolis.