A jury ordered ExxonMobil Corp. to pay $11.9 billion in damages last Friday in the state of Alabama’s suit over disputed natural gas royalties. The jury, which began deliberating last Tuesday, awarded $63.6 million in compensatory damages and $11.8 billion in punitive damages, a record in the state. Jurors had to find that ExxonMobil committed fraud to return the multibillion-dollar verdict Alabama sought. If the damages are upheld on appeal, the money would go into state coffers. “We wanted to send a message that this corporation can’t get away with doing wrong,” said Joe King, a teacher from Montgomery, Ala., who was the jury foreman. The state sued Irving Texas-based ExxonMobil in 1999, contending that the company had violated its leases for natural gas wells in state-owned waters along the Alabama Gulf coast. The state accused the company of cheating Alabama out of millions of dollars by intentionally deducting too much in expenses for operating the wells. ExxonMobil’s attorneys said the company has followed its leases with the state and owed Alabama nothing.
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