Plaintiffs in Exxon spill case ask court a second time to reconsider decision

One motion for reconsideration denied Tuesday

March 08, 2012|By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun

Some Jacksonville residents are, for the second time, asking a Maryland appeals court to reconsider its decision to reduce by more than half a $147 million jury verdict in a tainted-groundwater case.

On Thursday, two days after the Court of Special Appeals denied the plaintiffs' first motion to reconsider the panel's February decision, attorneys filed a second request for the court to re-evaluate its conclusions. In February, the state's second-highest court rejected part of a jury's decision in a suit stemming from a gasoline leak in 2006 at anExxon Mobil Corp.filling station that contaminated the community's groundwater.

In their most recent filing, attorneys Stephen L. Snyder and Robert J. Weltchek argued that some members of the court "improperly participated in the decision" for all eligible Court of Special Appeals judges to review the case.

The attorneys state that three judges who recused themselves from hearing the case, because of ethical conflicts, took part in the decision to determine whether the court would hear the case at all. Only the nine members of the court who heard the case, they argue, should have participated in the decision on whether to hear the case.

Many of the issues in the case were decided in a 5-4 split, which plaintiffs' attorneys find inadequate. In their initial motion for reconsideration, filed at the end of February, Snyder and Weltchek argued that at least seven judges — an absolute majority of the Court of Special Appeals' members — needed to agree in order to make the court's findings legally binding.

Those nine judges on Tuesday unanimously rejected this argument, which Snyder and Weltchek re-asserted in Thursday's filing.

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