After a 19-week trial, a lawsuit brought against Exxon Mobil Corp. by 300 Jacksonville residents went to the jury yesterday.
At stake are potential compensatory and punitive damages worth "several billion dollars," said plaintiffs' attorney Stephen L. Snyder, whose team received a standing ovation from the crowded courtroom after the jury had filed out. Snyder had argued that the 26,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline that seeped into the groundwater from a leaking pipe in 2006 harmed residents' health and ruined property values.
Addressing the six jurors, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr. thanked them for their "extraordinary" investment in time and energy. The competing lawyers were also complimentary toward one another, with Exxon's lead attorney, James F. Sanders, describing his opponent as "brilliant" but "maddening."
Snyder had argued that Exxon officials knew leak-detection equipment was inadequate but ignored the potential for injury. The company said it accepts responsibility for the spill and its cleanup but asserted that it did not commit fraud or act with intentional malice or negligence.