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Pennsylvania Jury Orders ExxonMobil to Pay $725.5 Million in Landmark Benzene Exposure Case

Philadelphia, May 10, 2024, The Europe Today: A Pennsylvania jury has rendered a verdict ordering ExxonMobil to pay a staggering $725.5 million in compensation to a former mechanic, Paul Gill, who alleged that his cancer was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals present in the company’s gasoline and solvents. The decision, reached by a 10-2 majority on Thursday, follows a trial held in a state court in Philadelphia.

Gill’s legal representatives contended that during his tenure as a mechanic at a gas station between 1975 and 1980, he was routinely exposed to benzene, a known carcinogen found in ExxonMobil products. The jury’s verdict held ExxonMobil liable for negligence in failing to adequately warn about the health risks associated with benzene exposure, a stance consistent with the classification of benzene as a carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The entirety of the $725.5 million awarded to Gill comprises compensatory damages, as confirmed by his legal team. The plaintiff, now 67 years old, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a form of blood cancer, in 2019. Gill’s lawsuit, filed in 2020, underscored his direct and prolonged exposure to benzene through the handling of petroleum products without protective measures.

In response to the verdict, an ExxonMobil spokesperson characterized the decision as “irrational” and indicated the company’s intention to contest it through all available legal avenues, signaling plans for appeals.

Attorney Patrick Wigle, representing Gill, emphasized the significance of the jury’s decision, stating, “This verdict is important because it’s a finding that their gasoline causes cancer.” He further criticized ExxonMobil for allegedly withholding information about benzene’s carcinogenic properties and failing to implement adequate safety measures despite decades of awareness.

Benzene, widely utilized in motor fuels and industrial processes, remains subject to regulatory oversight by the EPA, which sets limits on acceptable benzene levels in fuels. The agency highlights various sources of benzene exposure, including emissions from burning coal and oil, vehicle exhaust, and gas station evaporation.

The outcome of this trial underscores the growing legal scrutiny surrounding corporate accountability for chemical exposure and its associated health risks, setting a notable precedent in the realm of environmental litigation.