Supreme Court Rules Against Exxon

Smaller class members may participate, U.S. Supreme Court says

MIAMI -- The U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, affirmed the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in the Exxon dealer "Discount for Cash" class action, Allapattah Services Inc. et al. v. Exxon. The court found that even those class members with claims ordinarily too small to be independently brought in the federal court may participate in the jury's verdict against Exxon.

The case involves current or former direct-served gas station dealers who owned or operated an Exxon station between March 1, 1983, and August 28, 1994, [image-nocss] and had one or more sales agreements with Exxon.

At a February 2001 trial in Miami federal court, attorneys for the class proved to a jury that Exxon overcharged its station owners for the wholesale price of motor fuel for 11 years and then fraudulently concealed the overcharges. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed the verdict and orders of the trial court. Exxon appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted review only on the limited question of whether the trial court had jurisdiction over individual class-member claims worth less than $50,000 at the time the case was filed in 1991.

With prejudgment interest, the verdict currently exceeds $1.3 billion. The Supreme Court's decision comes after the district court's order sanctioning Exxon for its attempts to frustrate the claims process established by the court to pay class members entitled to participate in the verdict, according to Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, which represents the class.

"We are obviously pleased with the decision announced today by the Supreme Court," said Miami attorney Eugene Stearns. "The manner in which Exxon dealt with its dealers was simply outrageous, and we will be doing everything humanly possible to bring the claims process to conclusion at the earliest possible time."

ExxonMobil did not respond to a CSP Daily News inquiry by presstime.

Almost 11,000 claims were filed before the December 1, 2005 claims deadline.

To view the text of the Supreme Court opinion, click here.