Exxon Found Guilty (again) in Longest State Trial in New Hampshire History

Friday, April 12, 2013
(photo: AFL-CIO)

After going through the longest state trial in New Hampshire’s history, a jury took less than 90 minutes to find Exxon Mobil Corp. guilty of contaminating groundwater supplies with the gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether).

 

Not only was the trial, which lasted three months, the state’s longest, but it also yielded the largest civil verdict: $236 million. The state originally sued several oil companies in 2003, but only ExxonMobil refused to settle out-of-court.

 

Attorneys for both ExxonMobil and the state were reportedly surprised by the jury’s swift decision, which included taking only 20 minutes to agree on the damages the company owed.

 

The amount awarded was exactly what the state asked for during the trial. Officials said the money was needed to monitor and remediate underground wells contaminated by MTBE. The state estimated that more than 600 wells were impacted by the additive. One expert witness pegged the number at closer to 5,000.

 

ExxonMobil plans to appeal the decision, claiming “erroneous rulings” had “deprived us of a fair trial,” company lawyer David Lender told the Associated Press.

 

New Hampshire isn’t the only state that has sued ExxonMobil over MTBE contamination. A New York jury found the company liable for similar troubles in that state, and ordered it to pay $105 million. That case is on appeal.

 

In Maryland, the oil giant was told by a jury to pay $1.65 billion for a 2006 gasoline leak that caused MTBE to get into water supplies. But an appeals court overturned that penalty.

 

In California, ExxonMobil settled with Sacramento County—without a trial—for $100,000 for MTBE violations.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Exxon Mobil Must Pay $236M in NH Pollution Case (by Lynn Tuohy, Associated Press)

Exxon Mobil Is Found Neligent in New Hampshire MTBE Use (by Don Jeffrey and Sarah Earle, Bloomberg)

First Lawsuit over Exxon Arkansas Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Spill (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Congress and Oil Spill Safety Laws: Introduced-150; Passed-0 (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

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