Settlement made in gas spill case

Source: Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), March 22, 2011
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A plaintiff in a 10-year-old lawsuit in which hundreds of Hazleton residents claimed they were sickened or had their property damaged in a gasoline spill settled his case Monday.

Attorneys for ExxonMobil and plaintiff Robert J. Stevens were in Luzerne County Court on Monday to begin jury selection in the case. After a day of discussions, Stevens’ case was marked settled.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed Monday.

Stevens, a former Hazleton City Council member, previously asked in 2001 that the Luzerne County Assessment Board reassess the value of properties in the Laurel Gardens area, up to nearly 200 homes, to zero.

“I think this is one of the most catastrophic events to occur in this city in my lifetime,” Stevens said in 2001.

On Thursday, nine other cases are scheduled to be handled in county court, where Judge Lewis Wetzel will allow attorneys to make arguments on petitions to approve settlements in those cases.

The original suits date back to 2001, when the plaintiffs alleged that fuel leaks at the former Tranguch Tire and Service Station on Church Street entered the ground, causing residents to fall ill with diseases, including cancer, and damaged their properties.

The case, commonly called the Laurel Gardens gas spill, involves the Tranguch business, which closed in 1995 after filing for bankruptcy.

The building that still remains on the site is in the process of being torn down.

In November, a judge said there were approximately 270 cases still pending, and each may take up to four to six weeks to complete because there are three phases to each case.

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