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Suit filed over 7-Eleven gas leak

March 15, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

Eight Ranson, W.Va., property owners have filed a lawsuit against 7-Eleven Inc., alleging they suffered damage to their properties when gasoline leaked from a 7-Eleven store in Ranson and onto their land.

The suit, filed Feb. 21 in Jefferson County Circuit Court, alleges that 7-Eleven officials knew that the leak occurred as early as January 2000 at the store at 110 S. Mildred St.

Despite knowing about the leak, 7-Eleven officials hid the leak from the eight nearby property owners and government agencies, the suit alleges.

When 7-Eleven installed petroleum storage facilities at the store in 1976, they were negligently constructed without controls that would have informed 7-Eleven employees if leaks from tanks and lines occurred, according to allegations in the suit.

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The eight property owners are seeking damages for eight reasons, including emotional distress, expenses, inconvenience and loss of wages and income, the suit said.

One of the property owners has a rental property near the convenience store and has had trouble leasing it since the leak occurred, said Martinsburg, W.Va., attorney Paul Taylor, who is representing the property owners.

The damages being sought are unspecified because the plaintiffs want a jury to determine the fair market value of the property owners' land before the leak occurred.

Taylor said an expert will be used to compare the property values before and after the alleged leak. If it is determined property values have fallen, the property owners will ask a jury to award them the amount they have lost, Taylor said Thursday.

Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven headquarters in Dallas, said Thursday she had not been aware of the suit and could not comment.

Also named as a defendant is Ruby G. Gaither, who was manager of the store at the time of the leak. Attempts to reach Gaither at the store were unsuccessful.

At a Ranson Town Council meeting last August, City Manager Dave Mills said gas had leaked from the convenience store and that residents in the area had been complaining about fumes.

Mills said 7-Eleven had replaced the gas tanks at the store, but there was still gasoline in the ground.

The problem with fumes has been the worst when there has been flooding in the area, Mills said.

When the ground becomes saturated with water, the gasoline rises to the surface of the ground, Mills said.

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