According to the complaint, filed by Arnold Goldstein, John Covas and Gisela Janette La Bella, the problems associated with the refinery predate the explosion. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges Exxon was aware that the safety standards at the facility were inadequate as early as 2006, and yet Exxon did nothing.
“In the aftermath of the explosion, copious evidence regarding the multiple health and safety violations at the refinery all point to one conclusion: It was only a matter of time until the poor decisions made by [the] defendants’ officers, directors and managing agents allowed such an incident to occur,” the complaint states. Following the explosion, the suit states, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health ordered Exxon to shut down operations until the facility could demonstrate safe conditions.
However, according to the suit, Exxon subsequently rushed substandard repairs in order to push through a half-billion-dollar sale. The plaintiffs claim Exxon made a choice to pursue profits over public safety, and just 15 months after the February refinery explosion, and despite continued lax oversight and corporate indifference to safety and pollution standards, the suit states, the facility began operating again, prior to its $537.5 million sale to PBF Energy Inc., also named as a defendant in the complaint.
Further, for a period following the restart of the refinery, the facility pumped hundreds of pounds of excess toxins into air exposing more than 330,000 residents, 71 schools and eight hospitals to toxins, due to missing pollution-control devices, the suit asserts.
Since then, the Torrance refinery has continued to operate in an “ultrahazardous” manner, and bad repairs have caused numerous fires, leaks, explosions and other toxic pollution, the complaint states.
Plaintiff Goldstein alleges he was on a street that was sprinkled with ash after the 2015 explosion, and that since that incident he has developed a persistent cough and been diagnosed with asthma. Similarly, La Bella states that she was jogging with her dog when the ash began to land around her and has since suffered damage to her throat, which has made her second work as a singer difficult. Her dog also became ill.
The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew J. Matern, Tagore Subramaniam and Daniel J. Bass of Matern Law Group PC.
The case is Arnold Goldstein et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp. et al., case number BC651059, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.