Jury Awards $150 million in damages including $61 million in property damages arising from Jacksonville Maryland Exxon Gas Spill - Kenneth Acks CEO of the Cost-Benefit Group testified on Diminution in Property Values

March 17th, 2009

On March 12th a jury awarded about $150 million in compensatory damages to 91 households in Jacksonville Maryland due to a gasoline leak that occurred at a nearby Exxon Mobil Corp. gas station.

For emotional distress most adult plaintiffs in the suit received $500,000 in non-economic damages, plus $50,000 in non-economic damages for their children for emotional distress resulting in a total award of about $71 million. ExxonMobil was also held responsible for lifetime medical monitoring, which is expected to cost nearly$14.5 million.

Each family also received the full appraised value of their home resulting in total property damages of more than $61 million. The Maryland Daily Record reported “The fact that plaintiffs were, for the most part, compensated for the full value of their homes, some of them worth as much as $1.3 million, was surprising and cathartic to many homeowners.”

On December 30th and 31st 2008 Ken Acks CEO of the Cost-Benefit Group testified before the jury regarding the diminution in property values resulting from the underground gasoline storage tank leak. Jacksonville is an affluent community about 20 miles north of the City of Baltimore. The tank spilled about 26,000 gallons of gas over 37 days until it was discovered on February 16, 2006. Jury selection began October 1st 2008, and the trial started on October 14th. Several environmental and health experts, and most plaintiffs testified before Mr. Acks.

Mr. Acks directed the valuation estimates for 91 properties. As part of the process Richard Kern, SRA, a local appraiser, estimated property value as uncontaminated at the time of the spill, The average property value was determined to be about $690,000. Mr. Acks then used a variety of techniques to estimate expected diminution levels, based upon contamination probabilities provided by Whitman Associates and other environmental consultants, an extensive search of academic literature, surveys, interviews, investigations of real estate activity in the area, and other research..
Mr. Acks had been deposed over four days by attorneys for the defendant, ExxonMobil, in the year prior to the spill. Robert Weltchek a name partner at Snyder, Weltchek & Snyder, the attorneys for the plaintiffs, directed questions to Mr. Acks on December 30th. He then faced cross examination from attorneys for the defendant, and a redirect by Mr. Weltchek.

Mr. Acks has been assessing the economic impacts of environmental factors, conducting financial analyses, valuing real property, providing litigation support, and producing cost-benefit analyses for more than 30 years. He has estimated property damages from nuclear power plants, oil spills, dry cleaners and numerous toxic chemicals. In conjunction with the NASA-Goddard, Columbia University he produced a cost-benefit analysis of green roofs in New York City and presented a Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Green Brownfield Redevelopment Project at the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis in June 2008.