Tevis Oil found responsible for MTBE leak: Jury awards four families nearly $400k worth of damages

Tevis Oil found responsible for MTBE leak: Jury awards four families nearly $400k worth of damages

Source: Baltimore Sun, April 22, 2010

A Carroll County jury found a local oil company responsible for polluting water wells with a hazardous gasoline additive and awarded four Finksburg families $395,000 worth of damages, according to court records and lawyers for the case.

The six-person jury in the class-action civil lawsuit reached the verdict yesterday after three days of deliberations. Clifford Keffer, the named-plaintiff whose house was closest to a Tevis Oil-owned Jiffy Mart gas station that emitted methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, was awarded $230,000. Three other families will split the rest of the money.

Keffer filed the suit five years ago and testified during the trial that he has had to use bottled water at his residence since 2003 after MTBE was discovered in his well.

MTBE is a suspected carcinogen whose effects on drinking water have not been determined. The chemical makes gasoline burn more cleanly, but several studies have shown it to cause cancer in lab rats.

The Maryland Department of the Environment identified the Jiffy station, at the corner of Suffolk Road and Route 140, as the source of pollution. Lawyers for Tevis argued during the three-week trial that there was no spill or leak discovered, and that the additive originated from a neighboring junkyard.

Bruce Hill, a lawyer for the plaintiff, had asked the jury for a minimum of $1.5 million during his closing arguments last week. The jury, however, declined to award money to any of the plaintiffs for costs of future medical expenses.

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