Md. Jury Orders Exxon To Pay $1.5 Billion For Gas Leak

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Jacksonville families burst into cheers when the Exxon verdicts were announced Thursday night.  Mike Schuh has exclusive details on the record damages awarded.

The jury says Exxon took a 26,000 gallon leak and, by committing fraud, turned it into what exclusive sources say is a record $1.5 billion judgment.

“This is the way the system should work and it worked,” said attorney Ted Flerlage.

These dream homes in Jacksonville are worthless and no one’s confident their wells aren’t filled with poison.

“They saw the facts.  There was substantial evidence supporting these verdicts and we’re confident they’ll be upheld,” Flerlage said.

Perhaps no one was more relieved than the jurors, who spent half a year in court.  The judge choked up when he thanked them.

“Just a kind, caring group of people from all walks of life and several teachers,” said one of the jurors, identified only as Ellen.

Cheers broke out at the end of the trial.  The only long faces were from those trying to defend what the jury says Exxon did.

“We believe that result is not supported by the facts overall,” said James Sanders, Exxon’s lead attorney.

Glad they won, those who sued say their losses are ever-present.  They still can only take two-minute showers, they drink bottled water and worry about their kids getting cancer.

“But I want to know when I’m old that I have to look at my child and know because she lived in our dream home, this happened,” said Susie Lazzaro.  “I’m very glad this is over.”

At this point, most defendants won’t talk about an appeal but with such big dollar figures here, Exxon has already said they’ll appeal.

So far, the awards range from $300,000 to $60 million.  The $60 million went to a bison rancher who lost his entire herd after the leak.

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