A jury in Hinds County, Miss., has returned a $19 million verdict for five women against Texaco, now a division of Chevron Corp. The Plaintiffs allege the oil company was responsible for their children being born with disabilities and illnesses, including mental retardation. The women claimed they were pregnant when they worked in the old Jefferson County office building in Fayette, which previously was a gas station affiliated with Texaco. In their suit, the women contended they were exposed to leaded gasoline fumes from tanks left in the ground when the former gas station was renovated.
Loraine Simon, the lead Plaintiff in the case, alleged her 20-year-old daughter, Rosalyn, is severely mentally disabled. The children of the other women suffer from respiratory conditions and learning disabilities. The trial was moved from Jefferson County to Hinds County on a change of venue request by Texaco because the women were known or worked in the county. Texaco says it never owned, operated or controlled the service station or the underground storage tanks at issue.
Ms. Simon said the victory “was bittersweet” because of her child’s condition. The woman testified during the trial that she and her husband had taken their daughter to several doctors trying to determine the cause of her condition. They have two older children who do not have any mental defects. Ms. Simon didn’t work in the building when she was pregnant with the other two children.
None of the other Plaintiffs’ children have serious mental disabilities, but they all suffer from asthma. Each of their children, who now range in age from 11 to 20, has some learning disability. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had the tanks and contaminated soil removed in 2000. According to expert testimony, Ms. Simon was exposed to 46,000 times the safe level for exposure to leaded gasoline fumes. A Texaco expert said no medical records substantiate the claims of the women being exposed to dangerous levels of leaded gas fumes. The company’s lawyers say an appeal will be filed.
Source: Insurance Journal
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