S.C. Supreme Court Reverses Verdict Against Shell Jobber

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S.C. Supreme Court Reverses Verdict Against Shell Jobber

BARNWELL, S.C. -- In 2007, the National Association of Shell Marketers (NASM), the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) and the South Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association (SCPMA) jointly filed a brief with the South Carolina Supreme Court in support of efforts to reverse a jury verdict against South Carolina-based Anderson Oil Co. Inc., a NASM member.

In a decision issued Sept. 21, the state Supreme Court reversed the jury verdict.

The case involved the illegal sale of beer to a minor by an employee of the Morris Texaco Mini Mart in Denmark, S.C. The minor was subsequently involved in a traffic accident in which he was killed and a passenger in the car, Louis Jamison, was injured.

Although Anderson Oil did not employ or supervise any of the Mini Mart employees, the trial judge ruled that Anderson Oil and Texaco could both be held liable for Jamison's injuries. Specifically, the trial judge ruled that the jury could find the Mini Mart and its employees were agents of Anderson Oil and of Texaco based upon a typical Texaco-branded gasoline supply contract between Anderson Oil and the Mini Mart. The jury returned a verdict of $27 million against the Mini Mart's owners and also against Anderson Oil and Texaco, according to NASM's account.

At the request of Anderson Oil, and because the lower court's ruling represented a harmful precedent, NASM joined with PMAA and SCPMA to urge reversal on the basis that the Mini Mart and its employees were not, as a matter of law, agents of Anderson Oil. Specifically, they argued that Anderson Oil lacked the requisite element of control over the Mini Mart's activities with respect to the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed. In its Sept. 21 decision, the court reversed the liability verdict against both Anderson Oil and Texaco, and granted a new trial for the claims against the Mini Mart's owners, according to NASM.

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