California jury returns $63M verdict after finding Chevron covered up toxic pit before selling land
Jun 8, 2023, 2:49 PM | Updated: 3:28 pm
A California jury has returned a $63 million verdict against Chevron after finding the oil giant covered up a toxic chemical pit and then sold the land to a man who built a house on it and was later diagnosed with a blood cancer.
Kevin Wright, who has multiple myeloma, unknowingly built his home directly over the chemical pit near Santa Barbara in 1985, according to his lawsuit.
Starting in 1974, Chevron subsidiary Union Oil had used the land as a sump pit for oil and gas production, a process that left the carcinogenic chemical benzene in the ground, court papers said.
The company sold the property to Wright in 1983. Nearly three decades later, Wright was diagnosed with the cancer that attacks plasma cells in the blood and can be caused by benzene exposure, court documents said.
The jurors in Santa Barbara on Wednesday returned the $63 million verdict, said Jakob Norman, an attorney for Wright. Norman called the case a “blatant example of environmental pollution and corporate malfeasance.”
Chevron didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the jury award.
“They cut corners, and my life was turned upside down as a result,” Wright said in a statement provided by his lawyers. “Chevron’s continued denial of the harm they caused is a shameful reminder that this company values only profits, not people.”
His attorneys said Wright’s cancer is in remission, but he regularly undergoes chemotherapy treatments to hold the illness at bay.