Trial set for Texaco’s appeal of $19M verdict

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Dec. 3 in Texaco’s appeal of a $19-million verdict for five women who alleged the oil company was responsible for their children born with disabilities and illnesses.

A Hinds County jury ruled for the woman in 2010. Texas appealed the verdict. Supreme Court records show briefs have been filed in the case.

The women had claimed they were pregnant when they worked in an old Jefferson County office building in Fayette, which previously was a gas station affiliated with Texaco Inc.

The women sued Texaco, now a unit of Chevron Corp., saying they were exposed to leaded gasoline fumes from tanks left in the ground when the former gas station was renovated.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had the tanks and contaminated soil removed in 2000.

According to court records, the defense’s expert testified Simon was exposed to 46,000 times the safe level for exposure to leaded gasoline fumes.

A Texaco expert said no medical records substantiate the claims of the women being exposed to dangerous levels of leaded gas fumes.

Loraine Simon was the lead plaintiff in the case. She alleged her 20-year-old daughter, Rosalyn, is severely mentally disabled, and the children of the other women suffer from respiratory conditions and learning disabilities.

The trial was moved from Jefferson County to Hinds County.

Texaco claims it never owned, operated or controlled the service station or the underground storage tanks. The company said there is no evidence to link it to the claims made by plaintiffs.

Simon testified during the trial that she and her husband, Robert Simon, had taken their daughter to several physicians trying to determine the cause of her condition. They have two older children who do not have any mental defects. She did not work in the building when she was pregnant with the other two children.

The other plaintiffs didn’t have children with mental disabilities, but all suffer from asthma. Their attorneys argued that each of their children, who now range in age from 11 to 20, has some learning disability.

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