The Mississippi Supreme Court held an extended, one-hour-and-thirty-minute oral argument in two consolidated appeals, Texaco, Inc. & Chevron Corp. v. Rosalyn Simon, No. 2010-CA-01921. CCL’s Andre M. Mura and Robert S. Peck both argued on behalf of the Plaintiffs/Appellees.

 In this appeal, Texaco and Chevron are challenging a jury verdict in favor of young adults and a child injured when, during the terms of their pregnancies, they were exposed to leaded gas that leaked from underground storage tanks. The jury found that Texaco was the owner of the tanks and gas and was negligent for failing to inspect or maintain the tanks. It awarded compensatory damages to be paid by Texaco and Chevron, which merged with Texaco in the 1990s. The evidence at trial demonstrated that Texaco had purchased the tanks from Sinclair Oil in the late 1960s; this sale of personal property did not implicate the statute of frauds (which only applies to the sale of land) and thus was proven through tax receipts, custom and practice evidence, and oral testimony. Evidence at trial also demonstrated that 78 percent of such tanks fail after 10 or 20 years of service. The tanks at issue in this case had been in service for decades when Texaco purchased them; yet Texaco never inspected or maintained them. Lastly, plaintiffs established at trial that exposure to leaded gas was the cause of their injuries. On appeal, Texaco has denied ownership of the tanks, and has challenged the probity of Plaintiffs’ causation evidence. Chevron has argued that the judgment should apply only to Texaco, because it has no presence in Mississippi and thus is outside the jurisdiction of its courts, and because, as a matter of corporate law, it should not be held liable for Texaco’s negligence.