Court grants extension in Exxon gas leak case

Lawyers for families and businesses who sued ExxonMobil Corp. after an underground gasoline leak in northern Baltimore County have been granted more time to seek reconsideration of a court ruling that struck down most of a $1.5 billion verdict.

The Maryland Court of Appeals gave lawyers for about 150 plaintiffs in Jacksonville until April 17 to submit their argument challenging the Feb. 26 verdict. The motion for reconsideration was originally due March 28.

But the new date is short of the 30-day extension to April 29 that the lawyers requested in a motion filed last week, said Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland judiciary system. The court granted the request from the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos to submit a motion of up to 25 pages, exceeding the usual limit of 15, Bolling said.

Court officials said the Court of Appeals receives many requests for reconsideration of opinions, but seldom grants them. One attorney who specializes in appellate law said the argument might be particularly difficult to make in this case, as the opinion by the seven judges was unanimous.

The court on Feb. 26 issued separate opinions in two cases arising from the leak of about 26,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline in January and February 2006 in an area that depends on wells for drinking water.

In the case represented by the Angelos firm, the court overturned the trial jury's finding of fraud, which tossed out a punitive damage award of about $1 billion made in June 2011. Awards for medical monitoring and most of the claims of emotional stress due to cancer fears related to gasoline contamination also were rejected. Some claims were upheld, and some were sent back to Baltimore County Circuit Court for retrial.

Lawyers for another group of plaintiffs, who won a $150 million jury verdict in 2009, said they were reviewing whether to ask for reconsideration by the March 28 deadline.

ahirsch@baltsun.com

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