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Jacksonville Residents Upset Over ExxonMobil’s Settlement For 2006 Gas Leak

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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JACKSONVILLE, Md. (WJZ)– A Maryland appeals court deals a blow to the people of Jacksonville, Baltimore County, who had their drinking water polluted by a massive gasoline spill.

As Mike Schuh reports, the state’s second-highest court knocked about $70 million dollars off Exxon’s bill.

A Baltimore County jury told Exxon the cost of the station polluting the drinking water in 200 Jacksonville homes is $147 million– money to make up the lost value in those homes, money for health monitoring and emotional distress.

But now, by a narrow 5 to 4 vote, the Court of Special Appeals ruling sides with Exxon and throws out much of the monitoring and emotional distress.

“The property value part of this decision has been affirmed,” Steven L. Snyder, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said.

Meaning, the money to restore a home’s lost value is safe. Snyder won the war, but so far, has lost this battle. He points to a statement Exxon made at the opening of the trial.

The Exxon attorney says, “We at ExxonMobil are responsible. We are sorry. This should not have happened. It’s unacceptable.”

After such a statement, Snyder asks: “Shouldn’t Exxon do what the jurors told it to– pay up?”

“Yet, when it comes time to damages that they don’t like as being too high, they file an appeal,” Snyder said. “I think it’s about time for the judges in this state to protect citizens of this state.”

Six years later, the 26,000 gallons of gas and its cancer-causing chemicals are still underground. Exxon continues to try to suck the toxic mess up and out of the ground.

Angry, unsettled, uncertain– the words from affected homeowners, too shaken up to talk on camera, who wonder what’s next.

Snyder says he’ll appeal to the state’s highest court. If they don’t take the case, a retrial on emotional damages would happen in Towson.

Snyder has 29 more days to file his appeal in Annapolis.

That ruling does not affect those who are a part of the other group of neighbors who sued and won a record judgment against Exxon. The oil giant is also appealing that ruling.

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