Benzene, Shell, Lupus and Acosta


Benzene, Shell, Lupus and Acosta: A case in the Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled on an an appeal to a summary judgment motion (re: general causation evidence expert opinions).

The Benzene, Shell, Lupus and Acosta case is about residents of the Westgate subdivision in Hobbs. Westgate was built in the late 1970s on and near an unlined storage pit where, during its oil drilling operations, Shell had placed toxic hydrocarbons in direct contact with the earth from the 1940s until Shell covered the pit with “fill dirt” during the 1960s.

A brief summary of the Benzene, Shell, Lupus and Acosta case includes:

  • From the 1920s through 1993, Defendants Shell Western Exploration and Production, Inc. and Shell Oil Company (collectively, Shell) engaged in oil and gas operations in Hobbs, New Mexico.
  • Environmental contamination from these operations was discovered years later, and over two hundred residents of the contaminated area brought this toxic tort action against Shell for personal injury damages that included systemic lupus erythematosis (lupus) and other autoimmune disorders.
  • Plaintiffs allege that toxic chemicals from crude oil caused their autoimmune disorders. They challenge the district court’s exclusion of the scientific evidence and expert testimony they offered in support of this theory, and they challenge the resulting partial summary judgment in favor of Shell.
  • Shell did not conduct any environmental risk assessment of the pit while it was in operation or after it was covered. Shell never reported releases or leaks of toxic chemicals to the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division and did not notify the Westgate subdivision builder that the hydrocarbon storage pit existed beneath Tasker Drive in the new subdivision.
  • The court ruled: Motions granted.
  • To find out more on the case, see Case No. Benzene and Shell – February 4, 2016.

CASE WATCH℠ is a compilation of Benzene exposure cases nationwide as a source of news and information (e.g., for the refinery worker, seaman, offshore worker…).  We hope that it is both helpful and informative.


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