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Woman sues Shell Oil, refinery for damage caused by gasoline

TheAdvocate.com: Woman sues Shell Oil, refinery for damage caused by gasoline

By PENNY BROWN ROBERTS

[email protected]

Advocate staff writer

23 June 04

A St. James Parish woman is suing Shell Oil and its Motiva Enterprises refinery in Baton Rouge federal court, claiming the high-sulfur gasoline she purchased at a Gonzales station damaged her car.

The class-action lawsuit is the first filed in the Baton Rouge area targeting defective fuel from the Norco refinery that suspended sales at 400 stations just before the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

In the lawsuit, Barbara Dorsey claims she filled her 2003 Nissan Altima with “the tainted Shell gasoline” purchased at the Shell Express One Stop, 2006 W. La. 30, Gonzales, several times in May.

High sulfur levels can corrode fuel gauges, causing them to register a full tank when they are near empty.

Repair costs can range between $300 and $1,000 per vehicle, depending on the make and model.

The high-sulfur gasoline originated at the Motiva Enterprises refinery in Norco, according to Shell. Motiva is the refining arm of Shell in the East and South.

Shell and Motiva spokeswoman Kimberly Windon said Tuesday the company still is investigating what caused the high-sulfur content in its fuel.

“We have no details on what happened,” Windon said. “But we’ll be happy to share that once we determine the cause.”

Like similar lawsuits filed in other states, this one seeks money for fuel, repair costs, rental cars used when vehicles were in for repairs, loss of the use of vehicles, towing charges and insurance deductibles.

It also seeks future damages for any higher insurance premiums and any loss in vehicle resale value.

Dorsey’s attorney, Patti Durio Hatch, did not return a call Tuesday to her office.

Windon declined to comment on the Baton Rouge lawsuit, saying the company has not reviewed it.

“We have taken the gas gauge issue very seriously and responded quickly and appropriately to minimize the potential impact to customers upon learning of this issue,” Windon said, noting that the company alerted customers and suspended gasoline sales once it became aware of the issue. Shell has toll-free numbers for customers and an online claims process that includes a list of 16 auto service centers in Baton Rouge as preferred places to repair the gauges.

As of Monday, Windon said, Shell had recorded 19,816 claims in Louisiana. Drivers in Florida and Mississippi also purchased the high-sulfur gas.

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