Mississippi Women Say Gas Fumes Harmed Children

By JACK ELLIOTT JR. | August 28, 2013

Texaco Inc. has settled a lawsuit with five women who alleged the oil company was responsible for ailments of children born after they were exposed to leaded gasoline fumes.

Both sides informed the Mississippi Supreme Court on Aug. 15 that the settlement was reached. Terms were not released. Attorneys for both sides did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal this past week and sent the case to Jefferson County for approval of the settlement.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last December. In April, attorneys notified the court that settlement talks were under way.

A jury returned a $17 million verdict for the women in 2010. Attorneys for Texaco, now part of Chevron, argued there was no evidence the oil company was responsible for ailments of the children.

The women said they worked in an office building in Fayette, which previously was a gasoline station affiliated with Texaco, and were exposed to fumes from tanks left in the ground.

The women claimed they were pregnant when they worked in an old Jefferson County office building. The women sued, saying they were exposed to leaded gasoline fumes from tanks left in the ground when the former station was renovated. As result, they claimed their children were born with disabilities and illnesses.

Wayne Drinkwater of Jackson, an attorney for Texaco, argued before the Supreme Court that the company didn’t own or operate the station and leaks in the underground storage tanks were not its fault.

Under law, Drinkwater said because Texaco did not own the land where the service station was located, it did not own the underground storage tanks and was not required to maintain them.

Eduardo Flechas, representing the families, said it was clear on the record that Texaco did nothing to inspect or maintain the storage tanks.

He said the court record showed Texaco had control of the tanks when the leak occurred between 1974 and 1976.

Flechas said there no evidence that the station owner could have bought gasoline from someone else.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had the tanks and contaminated soil removed in 2000.

A spokeswoman for Texaco declined to comment.

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