Lawsuit filed against Exxon over bad batch of gas

A lawsuit filed against ExxonMobil claims the company negligently produced and recently shipped more than 5 million gallons of defective gasoline from its Baton Rouge terminal that caused some local drivers to experience problems with their vehicles.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, seeks class-action status and monetary compensation on behalf of “tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals and entities with damages.”

“If a class action is not allowed, it is likely Exxon would retain the windfall benefits of the sale of useless defective fuel and lay the costs of the damage caused on the citizens of Louisiana,” the suit warns.

The company stands by its products and is fully committed to working with its customers and motorists “to honor all valid claims swiftly and effectively,” said Stephanie Cargile, an ExxonMobil Baton Rouge spokeswoman, on Monday.

“In fact, we have already begun reimbursing claimants,” she said in a statement.

Drivers with any questions or concerns about fuel they purchased in the Baton Rouge area should call ExxonMobil North America Customer Care toll free at (855) 300-2659.

Exxon reopened the loading racks at its Baton Rouge gasoline terminal April 3, eight days after it shut down the facility after problems developed involving more than 5 million gallons of unleaded regular fuel.

Two batches of bad fuel produced at Exxon between March 12 and March 15 caused some local drivers to experience problems with their intake and valve systems gumming up.

One such driver is Roger Jean LeBlanc, the named plaintiff in the suit filed Thursday.

LeBlanc, an East Baton Rouge Parish resident, bought $50.83 worth of Exxon gas March 12 at an Exxon retail location near Siegen Lane and Highland Road, and afterward, his vehicle began to stall in traffic and run erratically, the suit claims.

LeBlanc spent more than $1,500 to repair the truck March 19.

“It is unclear if the damage has been fully rectified, since as of this date, Exxon has not released the exact nature of the dangerous cocktail it misbranded as marketable gasoline,” the suit contends.

Exxon said last week it had dispatched claims representatives to Baton Rouge to work directly with consumers who purchased tainted fuel and resolve their claims.

“Exxon has stated they want to fix the damage caused as a result of any defective gas, and we look forward to working with them to find a fair solution for all customers who paid good money for Exxon gas but ended up with engine damage,” Charles F. Zimmer II, one of LeBlanc’s attorneys, said Monday.

LeBlanc is represented by the O’Bell Law Firm LLC, of New Orleans, and Smith Shanklin Sosa LLC, of Baton Rouge. Zimmer is with the New Orleans firm.

Exxon produces about half of the gasoline sold in the Baton Rouge market.

Reports also have surfaced of damaged vehicles in Lafayette, New Orleans and Slidell, the suit says.

After an investigation, Exxon blamed the problems on an “atypical variation” in the fuel, which may produce a gum in engines, though all of the gasoline produced met regulatory specifications.

The suit, which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, claims the harm caused to LeBlanc’s vehicle has reduced its value.