Thousands still awaiting payouts after 1993 Exxon fire
BATON ROUGE- Attorneys representing nearly 8,000 people say their clients are owed thousands of dollars nearly 27 years after a fire at the Exxon Refinery in Baton Rouge left two workers dead.
On Aug. 2, 1993, two workers were killed when a cylinder caught fire. Nearby residents complained of watery eyes and sore throats, including Chiquita Henderson, who remembers the day vividly.
"We seen smoke and fire everywhere, and we heard sirens. Just trying to figure out what was going on," Henderson said.
Henderson and others testified in Baton Rouge City Court Wednesday, recalling the effects the fire had on their health.
"We started having burning eyes and throat hurt. Everyone was trying to get inside to recover from it," Henderson said.
Attorney Lewis Unglesby is representing the plaintiffs and believes this case has gone on for too long. This is arguably one of the longest civil cases in Baton Rouge.
"Went all the way to the state supreme court, back down and through the court of appeal and back to the court of appeal," Unglesby said. "We've won everywhere and Exxon ought to be good neighbors and accept their responsibility and resolve this."
Instead, those now suing are having to come in one by one in court nearly 30 years later and plead their case before a judge and Exxon's attorneys. At this rate, Unglesby anticipates this dragging on for many more years.
"Cynically, money runs the world," Unglesby said. "In the time you and I are having this conversation, Exxon just in Louisiana made enough money to resolve this whole case."
The courts ruled those affected by the fire will each receive between $1,500 and $2,500. With Exxon still disagreeing they are liable, people like Henderson are just ready for this to be over.
"This has been like a nightmare, and we are so happy that it is coming to an end," Henderson said.
Exxon released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
"ExxonMobil respectfully disagrees with the Louisiana Supreme Court's decision not to allocate liability to another entity or require that damages be in line with prior precedent. This decision gives finality to the 6 plaintiffs whose cases were tried. Any claims of the remaining plaintiffs in the lawsuit remain to be decided upon. We strive to continuously improve the safety of our facilities, and our workforce safety is among the best in our industry."
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