Posts Tagged ‘Exxon’

Gas-dealer bonanza: middlemen unlawfully skimming the pot?

“Class members and class counsel Eugene Stearns are claiming that companies that process class action claims are illegally taking a large part of class members’ winnings in the $1.1 billion Exxon-Mobil breach-of-contract case. Stearns argues the recovery companies are engaging in the unlicensed practice of law and duplicating work already done by his law firm. Florida federal Judge Alan S. Gold has voided members’ contracts with one processing company and Stearns’ firm is challenging other contracts.” Stearns boasts (or is it complains?) that he is getting not “an additional dime” for his work protecting the gas station owners from the percentage-seeking middlemen, but he is probably not in too great need of dimes at the moment, his firm having been awarded an eye-popping $249 million in fees in the action itself. (Carl Jones, “Class Action Processors Accused of Illegally Pocketing Big Share of Awards in ExxonMobil Case”, Miami Daily Business Review, Nov. 16).

EEOC challenges Exxon’s pilot age limit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued ExxonMobil last month over its policy of requiring pilots of its planes to retire at age 60. The federal agency prefers individualized assessments of age-related inability to handle the duties of the job — which in this case might mean that an employer would start the removal process for an elderly pilot only after a legally bulletproof file had been assembled documenting the pilot’s decline in capabilities.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Russ Roberts said the company’s policy addressed the issue of safety and was modeled after Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. He said the policy is long-standing and consistent, not arbitrary and discriminatory.

“Our pilots face the same challenges commercial pilots do flying large, complex, high-speed jets,” he said. “We told the EEOC that we would not change our safety practices in response to complaints filed by pilots.”

(Steve Quinn, “Suit Accuses Exxon of Age Discrimination”, AP/, Sept. 23). At the Denver Post, columnist Al Lewis discusses this and other recent age-bias lawsuits (“Gray hair + pink slip = lawsuit”, Sept. 27). More on the subject: Oct. 19, etc.

Were Gasoline Prices Too Low in 2002?

I’m delighted, and honored, that Wally Olson has invited me to guest blog at Overlawyered.

I’ll write a few posts on the recent rise in gasoline prices. I begin, though, with a remembrance.

In early 2002 I testified twice before two committees of the Virginia legislature. The solons of this Great State were considering legislation aimed at keeping the price of gasoline from being too low.

The specific concern was that two regional convenience-store chains (Sheetz, and Wawa) charged prices at their pumps that were unfairly low – so low that mom and pop gasoline retailers of brands such as Exxon, Texaco, and Shell were on the verge of being put out of business.

Of course, the argument included the prediction that once the helpless likes of ExxonMobil, Texaco, and Shell were run from the State, Sheetz and Wawa would share monopoly power over gasoline retailing in Virginia. The only way to avoid this awful outcome, said the mom’n’pops, was for the legislature to prohibit unfair price cutting by gasoline retailers.

Fortunately, sanity prevailed. Virginia’s legislature refused to outlaw gasoline price-cutting. But they did seriously consider doing so.

I relate this story to put the current gasoline-price hysteria in perspective. For most of the past 20 years, whenever Uncle Sam wasn’t at war in the Persian Gulf, the price of gasoline hasn’t been terribly high. A mere four years ago Virginia and several other east-coast states actually took seriously the argument that these prices might be too low.

Things have changed…. and in ways that provide abundant fuel for future blog-posts!

What plaintiffs’ lawyers really care about, part 376

Allegations of misconduct pop up as lawyers fight over a $1.5 billion pot and how much should go to which attorneys and how much should go to class members, deposing each other in the process to gain ammunition for their arguments for freezing particular firms out. The story is complex; unfortunately, space limitations in the Daily Business Review prevent more than a cursory discussion. (Carl Jones, “Millions in Fees in ExxonMobil Case Delayed Amid Lawyer Misconduct Claims”, Apr. 28).

Vioxx coverage (and more) at Point of Law

For comprehensive coverage of this week’s verdicts in lawsuits against Merck, see Point of Law. In particular, Ted corrects reporters who keep passing on ill-informed assertions that the Cona/McDarby results are going to preclude Merck from raising its earlier defenses in the thousands of Vioxx cases yet to come, and that that New Jersey cases are being heard in “Merck’s home court“.

Other things you’ve been missing if you don’t check our sister site regularly:

* New regular contributors include Larry Ribstein (Ideoblog), Tom Kirkendall (Houston’s Clear Thinkers), and Sam Munson (Manhattan Institute);

* Theodore Dalrymple on a new history of vaccine litigation;

* Jim Copland on Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a class action on behalf of Capitol police;

* Ted on the Supreme Court’s recent Dabit decision on state-court securities suits (here and here); and on a new med-mal study;

* Michael Krauss on a tort suit in the U.S. against ExxonMobil over abuses by the Indonesian military;

* Jonathan B. Wilson on offer-of-judgment reform in Georgia (and more); and joint-and-several-liability reform in Pennsylvania, just vetoed by that state’s Gov. Ed Rendell;

* Posts by me nominating an Arizona lawprof for “the worst and most tendentious analogy in the history of the liability debate”; on doctors’ Good Samaritan liability; a ruling in the New York school finance case, an AG who dissents from his brethren on the tobacco deal; the Rhode Island lead paint verdict (here, here, etc.); Seventh Circuit judge Diane Sykes criticizes the Wisconsin Supreme Court; and lost-overtime suits on behalf of $400,000-a-year stockbrokers. And, of course, much much more — bookmark the site today.

“Lawsuit blames oil companies for hurricane damage”

The AP reports that a “lawsuit seeks what attorneys say could be billions of dollars from a long list of oil companies for damages to wetlands that allegedly would have softened Hurricane Katrina’s blow.” Attorneys from the New Orleans firm of St. Martin & Williams are seeking class-action status on behalf of all persons and entities in Louisiana that suffered injury from Katrina’s wind and storm surge. They’re naming as defendants 11 oil and gas companies including Shell Oil, ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP Corp. whose activities they say depleted marshlands, including by building and neglecting pipeline canals. (AP/Shreveport Times, Sept. 17; “Class-action suit filed against oil companies”,, Sept. 15).

Meanwhile, environmental litigation over the years aimed at slowing levee and flood-control projects could come under Senate scrutiny, despite peals of protest from the Sierra Club, Sen. Chuck Schumer and others (Dan Eggen, “Senate Panel Investigating Challenges to Levees”, Washington Post, Sept. 17; Jerry Mitchell, “Senate panel investigates levee lawsuits”, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 17). See Sept. 9, Sept. 14 (& Baseball Crank).

Sell gas to drunks, pay for their crashes

“The [Tennessee] Supreme Court has ruled that store owners can be sued for causing injuries in a drunken driving accident if they sold gas to an intoxicated driver.” Employees at an Exxon station on Rutledge Pike in Knoxville allowed Brian Lee Tarver to buy $3 worth of gas and even helped him pump it when he seemed unable to work the controls. Victims of his subsequent drunk-driving crash sued the station. “A University of Tennessee professor later determined that Tarver’s vehicle would have run out of gas before encountering West and Richardson if he had not been able to buy more fuel.” Will gas station employees, like bartenders, now need training on how to recognize signs of inebriation? And what are the justices planning to do about card-swipe self-service? (“State’s high court rules stores liable for selling gas to drunks”, AP/WVLT, Aug. 22; Jamie Satterfield, “Ruling says gas stations liable”, Knoxville News Sentinel, Aug. 22)(intrusive registration).

P.S. Here’s the opinion (PDF), courtesy reader Jay Johnson. And CoyoteBlog comments (Aug. 26).

Update: judge cuts Ala. Exxon verdict to $3.6 billion

Big numbers dept.: “Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, persuaded an Alabama state court judge to cut a $11.9 billion verdict to $3.6 billion [last month] in a lawsuit over natural gas royalties.” (“Exxon Verdict Cut to $3.6 Bln in Alabama Gas Suit”, Bloomberg, Mar. 29). See Dec. 1, 2003; Dec. 20, 2000. Lawyers in Texas are organizing a similar suit by public entities there — no-fee, no-win, of course: Patrina A. Bostic, “Entities might sue large oil companies”, Longview News-Journal, Apr. 7.

Alabama jury to Exxon Mobil: pay the state $11.9 billion

In a retrial of a case which earlier led to an exorbitant punitive damages award, an Alabama jury two weeks ago ordered ExxonMobil to pay $63.6 million in compensatory damages and $11.8 billion in punitive damages to the cash-strapped state government in a dispute over natural gas royalties (“Alabama jury orders Exxon Mobil to pay $11.9 billion in dispute over natural gas royalties”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 14; Phillip Rawls, AP/Miami Herald, Nov. 13). A former state administration had hired two of the state’s most successful private trial lawyers, Jere Beasley and Robert Cunningham, to take the case on a 14 percent contingency, which in this case would amount to $1.6 billion in fees; the two lawyers are also important campaign contributors. Earlier verdict: Dec. 20, 2000. Editorial reactions: “The truly ridiculous”, Huntsville Times, Nov. 17; “Exxessive verdict”, Birmingham News, Nov. 19; “Don’t over-celebrate ExxonMobil verdict”, Mobile Register, Nov. 17. Update Apr. 18: judge cuts verdict to $3.6 billion. Further update Nov. 8, 2007: Alabama Supreme Court throws out punitives.

Archived environment items, pre-July 2003

See separate entries for archived entries on animal rights and mold.

Wildlife management, species protection, 2003:U.K. roundup” (licensing of exotic pet fish), Jun. 12-15. 2001:False trail of missing lynx“, Dec. 18; “Pricing out the human species“, Aug. 22-23; “Stories that got away“, Jul. 23; “Bush’s environmental centrism“, Apr. 24.  2000:Endangered list“, Dec. 4; “Snakes’ rights not always paramount” (man killed snake in self-defense), Aug. 18-20; “‘Imperfect laws add to danger of perfect storms’“, Aug. 10.  1999:Property owners obliged to host rattlesnakes“, Oct. 12; “Knock him over with a feather” (migratory bird contraband laws), Sept. 11; “Mow’ better ADA claims” (claim of “exotic prairie plants” by resident who didn’t want to mow her lawn), Jul. 26.

Bounty-hunting in New Jersey“, Jun. 10-11, 2003.

‘State is suing ex-dry cleaners’” (Calif., Superfund), May 27, 2003.

Suing ’til the cows come home“, May 20, 2003. 

U.K. roundup” (global warming suits), Jun. 12-15, 2003; “Tort suits over global warming“, Feb. 6-9, 2003; “Global warming suit?“, Jul. 31, 2001 (& Aug. 10-12); “Plus extra damages for having argued with us“, Aug. 19, 1999. 

California’s hazardous holiday” (fireplaces), Dec. 27-29, 2002; “Chestnuts-roasting menace averted“, Dec. 24-27, 2001; “Put out that match” (agricultural burning, residential wood burning), Feb. 28-Mar. 1, 2001.

“Right to know” laws, 2002:California’s hazardous holiday” (acrylamide), Dec. 27-29; “‘Lawyers who sue to settle’“, Nov. 4-5; “Chocolate, gas-pump fumes, playground sand and so much more“, Oct. 15; “‘Greedy or Just Green’“, Mar. 13-14.  2001:There’ll always be a California” (chocolate and Prop 65), Dec. 4; Letter to the editor (lutefisk exempted from toxic-substance status in Wisconsin), Nov. 29; “Be somewhat less afraid” (nuclear plant terrorism), Nov. 30-Dec. 2; “‘U.S. Debates Info on Chemical Hazards’” (“right to know” and terrorism), Nov. 12; “Chemical-plant vulnerabilities: read all about them“, Oct. 1. 1999:Lockyer vs. keys” (California attorney general declares brass a toxic hazard), Nov. 2. 

How much did you say that Indian legend was worth?“, Sept. 25-26, 2002; “Final innings for Kennewick Man“, Sept. 27-28, 2000; “Free Kennewick Man!” (pre-Columbian remains), Oct. 11, 1999. 

Low exposures, 2002:A breast-cancer myth“, Sept. 3-4; “‘Unharmed woman awarded $104,000’” (Canada), May 6. 2001:There’ll always be a California” (chocolate and Prop 65), Dec. 4; “‘Incense link to cancer’“, Aug. 27-28; “‘Candles might be polluting your home, EPA says’“, Jun. 19; “While you were out: the carbonless paper crusade“, Apr. 25 (& letter to the editor, May 18); “Hunter sues store over camouflage mask“, Jan. 12-14. 2000: ‘Airbag chemical on trial’“, Aug. 14; “Multiple chemical sensitivity from school construction“, Jul. 3-4; “Feelings of nausea? Get in line” (Baton Rouge chemical spill), Jan. 26-27. 1999:Lockyer vs. keys” (California attorney general declares brass a toxic hazard), Nov. 2. 

Zoning, land use, 2002:How much did you say that Indian legend was worth?“, Sept. 25-26; “‘Preserving’ History at Bayonet Point“, Feb. 15-17; “Planners tie up land for twenty years“, Jan. 18-20.  2001:Columnist-fest” (John Tierney on NYC battle over IKEA site), May 25-27; “Lessons of shrub-case jailing“, May 17; “Perils of regulatory discretion“, Jan. 24-25. 2000:Cornfield maze as zoning violation“, Oct. 30.  1999:Great moments in zoning law” (rescued pets from storm, charged with running unlawful animal shelter), Nov. 22.

Mercury in dental fillings“, Jul. 16-17, 2002 (& Nov. 4-5, 2002). 

Going to blazes” (logging and Western fires), Jul. 1-2, 2002; “Credibility up in smoke?” (same), Jul. 12-14, 2002; letter to the editor, Oct. 23. 

Industrial farming:‘Tampa Judge Tosses Out Class-Action Suit Against Hog Company’“, Jul. 3-9, 2002; “RFK Jr. blasted for hog farm remarks“, Apr. 15, 2002 (& Apr. 17, Apr. 19-21, letter to the editor and editor’s response, Apr. 19); “Chickens are next“, Feb. 6-7, 2002; “Judge throws out hog farm suit“, May 7, 2001; “Trial lawyers vs. hog farms“, Dec. 7, 2000; “This little piggy got taken to court“, Sept. 12, 2000; “Not so high off the hog“, Oct. 4, 1999. 

‘San Francisco Verdict Bodes Ill for Oil Industry’“, Jun. 11-12, 2002. 

‘Legal fight over chemical spill ends with whimper’” (W.V.), Jun. 7-9, 2002. 

Flowers, perfume in airline cabins not OK?” (Canada), May 17-19, 2002; “Scented hair gel, deodorant could mean jail time for Canadian youth“, Apr. 24, 2000.

The mystery of the transgenic corn“, May 14-15, 2002.

“Erin Brockovich”, 2002:‘Erin Brockovich, the Brand’“, Apr. 29-30.  2001:Exxon Brockovich vs. Erin Valdez“, Nov. 15; “NBC mulls Brockovich talk show“, Nov. 6, 2001; “Brockovich a heroine?  Julia really can act“, Mar. 23-25.  2000:Errin’ Brockovich?“, Dec. 21, 2000; “‘All about Erin’“, Oct. 12; “More woes for ‘Brockovich’ lawyers“, Jun. 22-25;  “Brockovich story, cont’d: the judges’ cruise“, Apr. 18; Brockovich story breaks wide open“, Apr. 17; “Plume of controversy“, Apr. 14-16; “Hollywood special“, Mar. 30.  1999:A Civil Action II?“, July 7. 

Trial lawyer/enviro alliance?  “RFK Jr. blasted for hog farm remarks“, Apr. 15, 2002 (& Apr. 17, Apr. 19-21, letter to the editor and editor’s response, Apr. 19); “‘Working’ for whom?” (Environmental Working Group), May 23, 2001; “Judge throws out hog farm suit“, May 7, 2001; “‘Bogus’ assault on Norton“, Jan. 18, 2001; “Trial lawyers vs. hog farms“, Dec. 7, 2000.

‘Former clients sue attorney O’Quinn’” (Kennedy Heights case), Apr. 8-9, 2002. 

Arsenic: one last dose?“, Mar. 22-24, 2002; “The view from Arsenictown“, Sept. 11, 2001; “‘The arithmetic of arsenic’“, Aug. 17-19; “Bush’s environmental centrism“, April 24; “Tempest in an arsenic-laced teacup?“, Apr. 18; “‘Bogus’ assault on Norton“, Jan. 18; “The Times vs. Gale Norton“, Jan. 15; “Ecology and economy“, Jan. 5-7, 2001. 

Liability concerns fell giant sequoia“, Mar. 12, 2002. 

Environmental lawsuits vs. military readiness“, Jan. 2-3, 2002.

Overlawyered schools roundup” (environmental impact statement for teacher layoffs?), Dec. 7-9, 2001.

Infectious disease conquered, CDC now chases sprawl“, Nov. 9-11, 2001.

States lag in curbing junk science“, May 29, 2001.

‘Family awarded $1 billion in lawsuit’” (Louisiana land contamination), May 24, 2001. 

Prospect of $3 gas“, May 10, 2001.

Who needs power anyway?:Sweetness and light from Bill Lockyer“, Jun. 1-3, 2001 (& see June 8-10, June 22-24); “California electricity linkfest“, Mar. 26, 2001; “Brownout, Shivers & Dim, attorneys at law“, Oct. 11, 2000; “Worse than Y2K?” (EPA/DOJ suit against coal-burning utility plants), Nov. 18-19, 1999. 

Seventh Circuit rebukes EPA” (Superfund search and seizure), Apr. 23, 2001. 

Attorneys’ fees:Stories that got away” (Endangered Species Act suits), Jul. 23, 2001; “Losers should pay” (columnist Thomas Sowell; injunctions, bonding requirements), Aug. 4-7, 2000; “Marbled Murrelet v. Babbitt: heads I win, tails let’s call it even” (“one-way” fee shifts), Sept. 8, 1999 (& see National Law Journal, Dec. 14, 1999).

Enviro litigator: debate belongs in Congress, not courts“, Dec. 29, 2000-Jan. 2, 2001.

Federal power over mud puddles?” (wetlands case), Nov. 28, 2000. 

From the evergreen file: cancer alley a myth?“, Nov. 8, 2000. 

‘A Civil Action’ and Hollywood views of lawyers“, Jun. 20, 2000. 

Don’t cooperate” (lawyers’ advice re local health survey), Jun. 9-11, 2000.

EPA’s high courtroom loss rate“, May 26-29, 2000; “When agencies like getting sued“, Dec. 6, 1999.

After the great power-line panic“, May 24, 2000; “Another scare starts to fizzle” (endocrine disrupters), Aug. 19, 1999. 

This side of parodies” (“dihydrogen monoxide” parody), May 10, 2000.

Diapered wildlife?” (animal emissions as environmental problem), Apr. 10, 2000; “Backyard trash burning” (suspected as major dioxin source), Jan. 6, 2000.

Emerging campaign issue: ‘brownfields’ vs. Superfund lawyers“, Apr. 4, 2000; “Mayors: liability fears stalling ‘brownfields’ development“, Feb. 26-27, 2000. 

Lawyers for famine and wilderness-busting?” (anti-biotech), Jan. 3, 1999. 

Weekend reading: evergreens” (Race car great Bobby Unser’s snowmobiling rap), Dec. 3-5, 1999. 

Leave that mildew alone” (EPA considers mildew-proof paint to be pesticide), Nov. 30, 1999.

Flag-burning protest requires environmental permits” (one for smoke, one for fire), Nov. 3, 1999.

A mile wide and an inch deep” (EPA considers Platte River impaired because sun heats it up), Oct. 15, 1999.

Careful what you tell your lawyer” (feds demand waiver of lawyer-client confidentiality in environmental cases), Sept. 14, 1999; “Overlawyered skies not always safer” (environmental audits and other “self-critical analysis”), Jul. 19, 1999. 

Tainted cycle” (class action over infectious bacterium in Milwaukee water supply), Sept. 2, 1999. 

Articles by editor Walter Olson:

Hollywood vs. the Truth” (“Civil Action” movie), Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1998. 

Don’t Steal This Book“, review of Property Matters by James DeLong, Wall Street Journal, April 2, 1997 (property rights).

Lawyers with Stethoscopes: Clients Beware“, Manhattan Institute Civil Justice Memo # 26, June 1996.