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Deliberations underway in Exxon case

Jurors began deliberations Monday morning in the second mass-action lawsuit filed by Jacksonville residents against Exxon Mobil Corp. stemming from a massive 2006 gasoline leak.

The six female jurors heard closing arguments last week in Baltimore County Circuit Court in a case that began the first week of January before Judge Robert N. Dugan.

Lawyers from The Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC, representing the plaintiffs, have argued that Exxon Mobil repeatedly failed to follow through on safety measures promised for the station, which resulted in the 25,000-gallon-plus gasoline leak that went undetected for more than five weeks. The plaintiffs have also alleged Exxon Mobil’s cleanup efforts have been half-hearted.

The plaintiffs, collectively known as the Allison plaintiffs, consist of 154 households, seven commercial property owners and two business owners. They are seeking damages for emotional distress, medical monitoring, diminution of property value and fraud as well as punitive damages.

Lawyers for Exxon Mobil, as they did in the first trial, apologized for the spill but argued the leak detector was improperly reset by contract technicians after sounding an alarm on the first day. The defense lawyers told jurors the cleanup efforts have been effective and punitive damages should not be awarded.

In the first trial, a jury in March 2009 awarded about $150 million in compensatory damages to 88 families but did not award punitive damages. The Court of Special Appeals heard arguments on Exxon Mobil’s appeal in January but has not yet issued an opinion.