Gauge Against the Machine

Notification begins over tainted gas

NEW ORLEANS -- A notification program began earlier this week, as ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, to alert people who used or bought Motiva gasoline from certain gas stations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida from May 11, 2004, to June 2, 2004, or through certain fleet storage facilities, about a proposed settlement of the litigation against Shell Oil Co. and Motiva Enterprises LLC and others.

Lawsuits began in May 2004 after it was discovered that certain batches of Motiva gasoline were sold with [image-nocss] some amounts of elemental sulfur and/or hydrogen sulfide. Although the total sulfur content was below the applicable governmental regulations, these particular sulfur compounds can damage fuel sensors in some makes and models of cars and vehicles causing gas gauges that measure the fuel level in the vehicle's gas tank to break or malfunction.

Problems with gas gauges usually occurred within a few days after the gasoline was used or not at all. The gasoline was supplied to a number of oil companies that, after adding their own additives, sold the gasoline at their retail outlets. Most of the gasoline was sold at some Shell and Texaco stations. The defendants deny that they did anything wrong, and the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated.

The settlement will make payments to people who submit valid claims for reasonable and necessary vehicle repairs, actual lost wages, incidental expenses, and other damages. Those included in the settlement may send in a claim form to ask for a payment, or they can exercise other legal rights such as asking to be excluded from, or objecting to, the settlement. The deadline for exclusions and objections is June 30, 2006. The deadline to submit claims is Sept. 12, 2006.

Notices informing people about their legal rights will be mailed, and are scheduled to appear in newspapers and other publications in states where the gasoline was sold, and also in other states where Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees are now located, leading up to a hearing on September 6, when the court will consider whether to approve the settlement.

The court has appointed Ben Barnow, Barnow & Associates, Chicago, , and Don Barrett, Barrett Law Office, Lexington, Miss., to represent the people included in the class action, as the co-lead settlement Class Counsel.

A toll-free number and website,, have been established in the case (In Re High Sulfur Content Gasoline Products Liability Litigation, MDL 1632).