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Castles Auto & Truck Serv., Inc. v. Exxon Corp.

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20129
Nos. Nos. 95-3183, 96-1117, 125 F.3d 847/(4th Cir., 09/23/1997)

The court reverses a district court decision that set aside a jury verdict award of $500,000 in compensatory damages to a service station for the remediation of contamination caused by a neighboring oil company's negligent petroleum discharge. The court first holds that the district court erred in granting judgment as a matter of law to the oil company. The evidence presented by the service station was adequate to support a conclusion by a reasonable jury that the oil company's negligent discharge of petroleum contaminated the service station's property and that remediation of the contamination would cost at least $500,000. The court recognizes that the concern driving the district court's decision to set aside the verdict was the apparent inconsistency between the verdict in favor of the service station on the negligence claim and the verdict in the oil company's favor on the trespass and nuisance claims. The proper remedy for inconsistent verdicts, however, is a new trial, not judgment as a matter of law. The court, therefore, remands the case to the district court to determine whether a new trial is warranted.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Allen C. Brotherton
Knox, Knox, Freeman & Brotherton
817 E. Trade St., Charlotte NC 28202
(704) 372-1360

Counsel for Defendant
Richard E. Morton
Petree & Stockton
3500 One First Union Ctr.
301 S. College St., Charlotte NC 28202
(704) 338-5000

Before Russell, Widener, and Wilkins, JJ.