A $3 million verdict was returned by a jury against ExxonMobil Corp. on behalf of a Darlington company that claimed the global oil giant illegally conspired to drive it out of the Mobil lubricants business and wrongfully terminated its distributorship. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury took less than two hours to reach its decision and awarded $2 million in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages in favor of Bristow Oil Co. The origin of this lawsuit went back to 1984 when Damon Flowers first joined Bristow at the request of his father-in-law, William Bristow. Shortly thereafter, Mobil Oil Corp., now called ExxonMobil, requested that Bristow distribute its lubricants. In response, Flowers agreed to lead that part of the business.
In spring 2001, ExxonMobil employees came to Darlington to meet with Flowers, who believed they were coming to present him with a newly-drafted agreement. Instead, ExxonMobil said it was terminating Bristow’s distributorship. The jury agreed that had Bristow known ExxonMobil intended to end its 17-year relationship, the business could have been saved by Flowers. The Plaintiff was represented by State Senator Gerald Malloy and John Nichols of Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado LLC. The case was in court for four years. Senator Malloy had this to say about the verdict:
The verdict sends a message to those companies that deal with the public. They should conduct business with fairness and honesty.
It will be interesting to see if ExxonMobil changes the way it does business because of this verdict. When you consider the giant oil company makes about $40 billion every three months in profits, I seriously doubt it.
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