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Investors win against Marathon

Nearly eight years ago, a group of investors sued Marathon Oil Co., accusing the company of damaging gas stations the Ohio company leased, returning them in poor condition.

Bitler Investment Venture LLC; Melching Investment Venture LLC; and Two Portland Properties LLC sued Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC; Speedway Superamerica LLC; and Marathon Oil Co. in December 2004.

In their 28-count lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that properties they leased to the defendants as commercial gas stations in a number of Michigan and Indiana locations – including Angola, Huntington, Ligonier and North Manchester, among others – were damaged and left in deplorable conditions by Marathon.

Attorneys for the investors argued that Marathon leased the buildings and then allowed them to degenerate into “filthy (sometimes festering), run-down eyesores, abandoned blights upon their neighborhoods,” according to court documents.

After years of bickering back and forth between each other in motions and requests for summary judgment – more than 304 entries were filed in the case docket – six properties remained by November, with 22 having been dismissed in favor of Marathon.

Those properties – in Angola and North Manchester in Indiana, and in Coldwater, Battle Creek, Portland, and Owosso in Michigan – were the subject of a six-day jury trial this month.

At issue was whether the defendants damaged the properties by committing waste and whether the company needed to pay damages to the investors.

A U.S. District Court jury in Fort Wayne found that Marathon had damaged the properties, and it awarded $274,000 in damages in amounts ranging from $13,200 for the Coldwater, Mich., property to $75,800 to the North Manchester property.

The jury also found the investors were not entitled to punitive damages concerning the Angola and North Manchester properties, according to court documents.