A court in Baltimore has ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $495 million for damages caused to 160 Jacksonville, Md., families following an underground gas leak in 2006, reports The Baltimore Sun.
The families are suing the oil giant for claims of lost property value, emotional distress and medical monitoring following the leak, which occurred over 37 days in January and February 2006, according to Reuters. And damages could continue to grow.
The Circuit County Court began work on Thursday to decide on damages due to the families for what it termed “fraud”, including misleading county officials and community members about the equipment the gas station had on site and the reasons behind its closure.
As a result awarded damages to the families could rise several time higher, according to The Sun.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Charles G. Bernstein of the Peter G. Angelos firm, urged jury members on Tuesday to return a verdict three to five times higher than the sum they had awarded in compensatory damages.
A lawyer for Exxon told the court than Exxon has already spent $46 million on the spill’s cleanup and been fined $4 million by the state, The Sun reported.
In November, Exxon agreed to pay $25 million and step up its cleanup of a massive underground oil spill near the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint under the terms of a landmark settlement with the New York Attorney General.
The deal resolved a 2007 lawsuit brought by then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (now the state’s governor) over the decades old 17-million-gallon spill. The Greenpoint spill has festered below hundreds of homes and businesses and leaked toxins into nearby Newtown Creek for more than 50 years. It is considered larger in volume than the Exxon Valdez Alaska spill.
Picture credit: Elvert Barnes