US Supreme Court to hear part of Exxon Mobil's appeal

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Oct. 18 -- The US Supreme Court agreed to hear part of Exxon Mobil Corp.'s appeal of a verdict against the major concerning a class-action lawsuit that involves up to 10,000 current and former service station dealers.

If all the dealers were to recover damages via a 2001 verdict from a US District Court in Miami, the total could exceed $1.3 billion. The case involves service stations in 34 states and the District of Columbia during 1983-1994.

The Supreme Court agreed Oct. 12 to review the question of whether the trial court had jurisdiction over individual class member claims worth less than $50,000 when the case was filed in 1991, said Eugene Stearns, an attorney for the dealers.

No immediate comment was available from Exxon Mobil.

The Supreme Court will analyze whether the US 11th Circuit Court correctly sided with the majority of circuits in finding that the smaller claims could properly be brought in federal court, Stearns said. The high court is expected to hear arguments in the case early next year.

Stearns said the Supreme Court's decision to limit review to the question of jurisdiction means that most of the class members' claims can be processed and paid.

Dealers claim that the major, which was Exxon Corp. during the time, overcharged station owners for the wholesale price of motor fuel for 11 years and fraudulently concealed the overcharges.

The claims deadline is Dec. 1, Stearns said, adding that attorneys for the service station dealers expect claims to begin to be paid in spring 2005.

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