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Verdict Reached In Exxon Leak: Damages $1 Billion Plus

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Sharing more than one billion dollars. That's how much families in Jacksonville will receive for a large gas leak caused by Exxon.

Mike Schuh talked to some of the people about the huge award.

Thursday was so chaotic in court after the jury announced its $1.5 billion judgment that many of the 160 families left not knowing what their award was.

Of the 26,000 gallons of gas still under Jacksonville, no one trusts what comes out of the sink.

"It's not safe enough to cook with," said Barbara Larrabee.

Her drinking well was the first to turn up poison. Now they have a triple filter system. No one can guarantee that it works.

"At any given time you could have breakthrough. There are no guarantees," said Larrabee's husband, John.

The jury awarded them $24 million dollars.

"It feels really good to be vindicated," said Barbara.

But what they're about to say, you hear a lot around Jacksonville.

"You would trade all that weight to get rid of the uncertainty this creates. It turns your life upside down. For people that haven't been through something like that it is difficult for them to imagine what it is like to have something underground that you don't know where it is. It is a ghost in your backyard, so to speak," said John.

"What would you trade the money for?" asked Schuh.

"Assurance that my children are not going to get sick," said Barbara.

The couple is still paying for bottled water deliveries.

The most emotional testimony in the entire case came from a woman,  just steps from the station.

Vicki Ho's came to this country 20 years ago with $200 in her pocket. She built a strong business at her nail salon, then came the leak. Half of her customers left.

Her minivan needs repairs and Friday she missed the call from her lawyer. She was stunned when WJZ told her the jury awarded her $15 million of Exxon's money. But nothing will compensate for the fear.

"You always worry in another 20 or 30 years what could happen to you," said Ho.

The families have been prepared by their attorneys that this is the first step. The awards could be reduced and it will be years before anybody sees any money.

Exxon plans to appeal the Jury's decision.

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