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Legal Watch: Volume 15
Prepared by William H. BodeCase Summary: A tank car owned by the railroad company CSX Transportation, Inc. was loaded with transmission fluid at Exxon/Mobil Oil Corp.’s Baytown, Texas facility. The morning after the tank car arrived at the CSX Stanley Yard in Waldridge, Ohio, its contents were seen “gushing” out of the outlet spout on the car’s bottom. CSX sued Exxon/Mobil seeking over $300,000 to cover the cost of cleaning the spill. CSX contended that it was obvious from the spill that Exxon/Mobil had failed to properly inspect the car to make sure the load was properly secured. The Ohio Federal District Court hearing the matter granted Exxon/Mobil’s motion for summary judgment. In support of its decision, the Court gave great weight to two Exxon/Mobil business records: the May 7, 2002 Tank Car Pre-Shipment Mechanical Inspection Checklist, and the May 10, 2002 Tank Car Loader’s Checklist. Both Checklists indicate that Exxon/Mobil employees properly inspected the tank car and determined that the belly cap was operational and properly installed. The Court specifically rejected the legal doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur” (the accident speaks for itself) because the tank car was not under the exclusive control of Exxon/Mobil after it left the Baytown facility.
Bode & Grenier, LLP
1150 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone: 202-862-4300 | Email: email@example.com
EXXON/MOBIL OIL CORP. NOT LIABLE FOR OIL LEAKING FROM CSX TANK CAR
LESSON: Exxon/Mobil’s business records -- showing that the belly cap and safety pin were properly fastened -- were critical to the Court’s decision. Business records showing the results of inspections can be introduced into evidence in court proceedings, if they are routinely prepared and maintained. Maintaining such inspection reports is a very sound business practice for terminal operators. (CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Exxon/Mobil Corp.)
MANAGER OF FACILITY CRIMINALLY LIABLE FOR NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE OF POLLUTANTS INTO NAVIGABLE WATERS
LESSON: This case demonstrates the utmost care that terminal operators must observe when handling pollutants. Even though the defendant in this case had no reason to suspect that, because of an oversight by the city, the sewer line was flowing directly into the Colorado River rather than a treatment plant, nevertheless he was criminally liable for the discharge. (U.S. v. David Ortiz)
Please address any comments or questions to Mr. Bode at 202-862-4300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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