Jenner & Block

Firm Successfully Advocates for High Court’s Rejection of Exxon’s MTBE Appeal

On April 21, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Exxon Mobil Corp.’s appeal of a $105 million jury verdict for polluting the City of New York’s groundwater with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), which has since been banned in New York.  A Jenner & Block team, led by Partner Paul M. Smith, chair of the firm’s Appellate and Supreme Court Practice, represented the city in Exxon’s appeal to the high court.

By denying a writ of certiorari petition by Exxon, the high court leaves in place a Second Circuit decision upholding a 2009 judgment concluding that Exxon was responsible for the introduction of MTBE into groundwater both as a producer of gasoline and as an operator of gas stations where leaks occurred.  After MTBE seeped into the city’s groundwater from underground gasoline storage tanks, the city sued Exxon and was awarded $105 million to cover cleanup costs.  The firm was not involved in the trial of the case in the Southern District of New York, but Paul successfully argued against Exxon’s appeal in the Second Circuit.  

The chief of the city Law Department's environmental law division, Susan Amron, was quoted in the press as saying:  “The city is pleased with the Supreme Court's denial of Exxon's request for another appeal.  This is a long-fought victory for the city and its water resources.”

News of the high court’s decline was covered by the AmLaw Litigation Daily,New York Law Journal and Law360 (subscriptions may be required to access).

In addition to Paul, team members included Partner Joshua M. Segal and Associate Matthew S. McKenzie.