MIAMI, Oct. 12 2004 LAWFUEL – Law, class action, legal, attorney, law firm news— Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court
declined to accept Exxon Corporation’s appeal of class certification in a
$1.3 billion class-action case brought by its dealers.
The Supreme Court 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, explained Eugene
Stearns, an attorney for the claimants. The Court will analyze whether the
Eleventh Circuit correctly sided with the majority of circuits in finding that
the smaller claims could properly be brought in federal court.
The Court consolidated the appeal with another case posing a related
issue, Ortega v. Star-Kist Foods Inc., in which the 1st Circuit found that the
mother of a girl who cut her hand on a can of tuna fish could not pursue her
claim against Star-Kist Foods in federal court along with her daughter’s
The Supreme Court’s decision to limit review to the question of
jurisdiction means that the great majority of class members’ claims can be
processed and paid, said Stearns of Stearns Weaver Miller. If all dealers
recover, the total amount could exceed $1.3 billion, which was the largest
compensatory jury verdict ever awarded in Florida at the time of the ruling.
Stearns, an attorney for the claimants, commented: “This is great news for
thousands of dealers who have been waiting a long time for the money that is
owed to them. The end nears. Only a small percentage of the money owed by
Exxon is impacted by the Supreme Court’s review of the jurisdiction issue.
With respect to that issue, we believe the Supreme Court will adopt the view
of the majority of circuit courts which have addressed the issue and will
affirm Judge Gold’s order.”
The case involves current or former direct-served gas station dealers who
owned or operated an Exxon service station between March 1, 1983 and August
28, 1994, and had one or more Sales Agreements with Exxon.
At a February 2001 trial in Miami federal court, the class proved to a
jury that Exxon Corporation overcharged its service station owners for the
wholesale price of motor fuel for 11 years and then fraudulently concealed the
overcharges. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed the verdict
and orders of the trial court.
The claims deadline is December 1, 2004. Attorneys for the class hope
that claims can begin to be paid in Spring 2005.
“Thousands of dealers and their families throughout the country still need
to file their claims,” said Stearns. “The average claim is more than $130,000.
We are urging all potential claimants, including the heirs of deceased
dealers, to step forward and file claims by the December 1, 2004 deadline.”
Although every effort has been made to notify all class members, many
station dealers or their heirs are unaware that they are entitled to thousands
of dollars that are rightfully theirs, he added. In situations where the
dealer has died, the right to make a claim passes to the dealer’s heirs.
People who are interested in learning more about this case are encouraged
to call Garden City Group, the court-appointed Claims Administrator, at
888-769-7759 or go to http://www.exxondealerclassaction.com . Class counsel
can be reached at http://www.exxondealerattorneys.com or 800-810-3590. Claims
must be postmarked by December 1, 2004.
For information, contact: Eugene E. Stearns, Esq.
Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A.
Sidney M. Pertnoy, Esq.
Pertnoy, Solowsky & Allen, P.A.
Wragg & Casas Public Relations