BATON ROUGE, La. (CN) - ExxonMobil's Baton Rouge refinery sent 5 million gallons of "atypical" gasoline to Louisiana pumps, "causing harm to gasoline engines of up to 250,000 vehicles," a class action claims in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff James Smith claims in the lawsuit that "Exxon has apologized for the damage its defective product has caused, but has not released the details of the defect, or the location of the sale of the defective and dangerous fuel."
Smith claims the defective fuel was distributed to retailers "in and around south Louisiana" from April, 1, 2013 to April 1 this year.
"The fuel was distributed at ExxonMobil branded stations and other retail distribution points to the Plaintiff and putative class members. Exxon has stated to news agencies that 120,000 barrels, or 5,040,000 gallons, of gasoline were 'identified as atypical' and causing harm to gasoline engines of up to 250,000 vehicles," according to the lawsuit.
Smith claims Exxon made false promises about the quality of its "Top Tier Detergent Gasoline."
"The fuel sold by Exxon not only failed to meet the standards promised by its advertising, but the fuel actively harmed vital engine parts and rendered the engine inoperable, or in a diminished functional capacity. This diminished functional capacity includes the reduced engine performance Exxon warned could happen if customers used 'lower quality gasoline,'" according to the complaint.
It continues: "Exxon has admitted to multiple sources that it sold 120,000 barrels, or 5,040,000 gallons, of defective gas in south Louisiana, and particularly in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, that damaged engines upon use. Reports have surfaced of damaged vehicles in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Slidell as well.
"Exxon could not determine, or would not admit, the nature of the defect as of April 1, 2014, inhibiting the putative class members from identifying signs of damage to their property, and thus taking timely action to avoid continuing damages to their property. Commissioner Mike Strain of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry has noted the need for detailed information on the compound causing the damage.
"In spite of assertions its gas was manufactured to the highest standards, Exxon recently announced it would be using 'stricter' quality controls for its fuel manufacturing process as a result of the damage caused by its defective fuel.
"Exxon instructed motorist who had concerns about fuel purchased in the Baton Rouge area to call its North American Customer Care number.
"To date, Exxon has not published a list of those retail locations that received and/or sold defective gas to assist damaged parties in identifying the damage and reducing the impact of the defective fuel. To date, Exxon has not stated the nature of the defect or methods to identify the damage it caused, and continues to cause."
Smith says he bought the defective gas in March this year, and his "vehicle was soon damaged by the defective gasoline. The damage was not known to plaintiff until he experienced trouble starting his vehicle."
That hurt the resale value of his vehicle, Smith says.
The explanatory section of the lawsuit concludes: "Before Exxon determined the cause of the defect, before Exxon implemented stricter production and quality control procedures, and after declaring that the harmful and defective gas did not fail minimal state testing, Exxon actively encouraged consumers to continue buying Exxon gas since it 'met regulatory requirements.' With full knowledge that the contaminated gas would pass state regulatory requirements, and still damage property, Exxon induced many more buyers to risk the damage of their defective product.
"Exxon confirmed to the press that all 5,000,000 gallons of defective gasoline had in fact been purchased by Plaintiff and the putative class members as of April 1, 2014, and without any word of an effective recall of even a single tainted gallon."
Smith seeks class certification and damages for negligence.
He is represented by Daniel Becnel Jr., of Reserve, La.