BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - ExxonMobil has been found 100 percent at fault for a deadly 1993 fire at its Baton Rouge plant after on Tuesday, Mar. 19, the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the 25-year-old case.
This clears the way for nearly 8,500 plaintiffs to possibly receive compensation from Exxon. This particular case, however, applied to only six plaintiffs, who will each receive between $1,250 and $2,500, plus legal interest for several decades.
Exxon released the following statement about the decision Tuesday evening:
“ExxonMobil disagrees that the City Court adequately followed the Louisiana Supreme Court’s prior instructions to conform damages awarded to 6 plaintiffs in the Andre Aaron v. ExxonMobil Corp. lawsuit to prior case precedent. We strive to continuously improve the safety of our facilities, and our workforce safety is among the best in our industry. ExxonMobil’s meticulous attention to the safe operation of our facilities has ensured strict compliance with regulatory requirements at the federal, state and local levels. We operate to the highest standards to protect the health and safety of our workers and neighbors. We invest millions of dollars annually in site-wide safety training programs with proven results.”
The incident was caused when a piping elbow that was part of the plant’s East Coker Unit ruptured, causing an explosion.
Exxon argued the piping elbow was manufactured using the wrong type of steel and, therefore, the company that designed the unit 30 years prior should be held responsible for the explosion. Exxon’s claim against the designer did not hold up in court, in part, because more than ten years had passed since the pipe was installed, so the designer was no longer legally liable.
The August 1993 explosion killed two Exxon employees. Nearby residents were ordered to “shelter in place” and refrain from touching any debris that might have landed on their property.
The nearly 8,500 people who sued Exxon, mainly nearby residents, contend they suffered damages including “personal injury, past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, mental anguish and emotional distress, damage to their homes and structures, diminution in the value of their property, other economic damages, loss of society and quality of life, loss of community, and other damages,” according to their lawsuit.
Baton Rouge attorney, Lewis Unglesby, who represented the six plaintiffs at trial, said Calvin C. Fayard Jr., Roy F. Amedee Jr., Rebecca Cunard, and David Scalia worked for these plaintiffs for 25 years through every level of the court system.
“The clients and their attorneys deserve credit for their determination to hold Exxon accountable,” Unglesby said.