Mechanic with Leukemia Wins $725M Benzene Verdict Against Exxon Mobil

A New York service station mechanic with leukemia won a $725.5 million verdict Exxon Mobil Corp. for its failure to warn consumers about the health risks of benzene contained in its products.

Exxonmobil Factory

ByCarolyn Casey, J.D.

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Published on June 6, 2024

Exxonmobil Factory

What Happened?

Paul Gill worked as a mechanic at a service station in Philadelphia from 1975 to 1980. During his employment, Paul used gasoline and solvents to clean car parts with his bare hands. Gill says this activity exposed him to benzene through his skin and that he inhaled vapors from the tainted products too.

In 2019, doctors diagnosed Mr. Gill with acute myeloid leukemia.

Lawsuit Filed Against Exxon Mobile

Paul Gill sued Exxon and other companies including Shell Oil Co. and Sunoco LLC, and various cleaning product manufacturers. Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999.

In the 2020 lawsuit, Gill maintained he would not have used his hands to wash auto parts with gasoline and solvents during his career if Mobil had disclosed that the products contained benzene and that the chemical would likely affect his health.

Patrick Wigle and Rajeev Mittal of Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel, and Andrew J.

DuPont of the Locks Law Firm represented Mr. Gill.

Exxon won a motion for nonsuit on claims of fraud and defeated Gill’s request to move forward with a claim for punitive damages. Christopher D. Stofko and Vaughn K. Schultz of Dickie McCamey & Chilcote, and Chad D. Mountain of Maron Marvel represent Exxon.

The lawsuit is Gill et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp. et al., case number 200501803, in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Exxon Knew of Benzene Dangers for Decades

Gill's attorneys said they presented evidence during the trial that Exxon concealed

information about benzene in their products. The trial evidence also alleged that this concealment kept businesses from having employees use vapor recovery systems and respirators to limit exposure to the harmful chemical.

At trial, an Exxon Mobil representative testified that the company was aware of benzene’s dangers since at least 1950, according to the plaintiff’s counsel.

The Verdict

Following the seven-day product liability trial, the Philadelphia jury took a day to find that Exon had failed to warn consumers of the dangers of their products containing benzene and that Gil’s exposure to the chemical was responsible for his leukemia diagnosis. The vote was 10-2.

Jurors awarded Gill $725 million and his wife $500,000. The jury verdict included $435 million of was to compensate Paul Gill for his past, present and future pain, and suffering from his cancer.

"This verdict is important because it's a finding that their gasoline causes cancer. Exxon Mobil has known for decades that benzene causes cancer, yet they resisted warning the public and taking basic precautions to limit exposure," said Patrick Wigle of Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel. Wigle commented that they were grateful for the jury’s close listening of the testimony that jurors decided to hold Exxon accountable for “placing profits over people."

Exxon plans to appeal, calling the verdict “irrational.”

Other Defendants – Not Guilty

Interestingly, court records show that the jury found that Exxon was solely responsible. The jurors found all the other remaining defendants, including Shell Oil Co. and Sunoco, and the cleaning product manufacturers not guilty.

About the author

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Carolyn Casey is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in legal tech, e-discovery, and legal content creation. As Principal of WritMarketing, she combines her decade of Big Law experience with two decades in software leadership to provide strategic consulting in product strategy, content, and messaging for legal tech clients. Previously, Carolyn served as Legal Content Writer for Expert Institute, Sr. Director of Industry Relations at AccessData, and Director of Product Marketing at Zapproved, focusing on industry trends in forensic investigations, compliance, privacy, and e-discovery. Her career also includes roles at Iron Mountain as Head of Legal Product Management and Sr. Product Marketing Manager, where she led product and marketing strategies for legal services, and at Fios Inc as Sr. Marketing Manager, specializing in eDiscovery solutions.

Her early legal expertise was honed at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, where she developed legal strategies for mergers, acquisitions, and international finance matters. Carolyn's education includes a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she was a Senior Editor for the International Law Journal and participated in a pioneering China Summer Law Program. She also holds an AB in Political Science with a minor in art history from Stanford University. Her diverse skill set encompasses research, creative writing, copy editing, and a deep understanding of legal product marketing and international legal trends.

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