The ruling, which hinged on jurisdiction issues, may not put an end to the case, which began working it way through the courts in 1991. There are more than 11,000 claims pending and attorneys at Miami-based Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson expect to spend years getting all of the claims paid.
“We expect ExxonMobile will fight every single claim. They will make it as difficult and expensive as they can,” said Eugene Stearns, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney.
In its ruling, the high court held 5-4 that station owners in Florida and 34 other states were properly included in the single class action case in U.S. District Court in Miami. The justices rejected ExxonMobile’s request for a new trial.
ExxonMobil had argued that the case shouldn’t have included station owners who were seeking less than $50,000, which at the time was the threshold for certain types of stand-alone federal suits.
The case centered on Exxon’s August 1982 discount-for-cash program, which promised station owners a price cut for gas to offset a new credit card fee the oil company was charging them. The station owners alleged that Exxon, which later merged with Mobil, eliminated the price discount seven months later, yet for years continued to tell stations that it was providing it.