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Investors to collect in Marathon case

$467,709 award tied to gas stations reduced to 'blight'

Nearly two years after a jury ruled in their favor, a group of investors entangled in a lawsuit with Marathon Oil over damaged properties can collect nearly half a million dollars.

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 one another 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 in November 2012.

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

The 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, Michigan, property to $75,800 to the North Manchester property.

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

Even though the investors won their lawsuit, the awarding of the judgment was on hold while the U.S. Court of Appeals reviewed the matter and a modification to the damage award for the sites in Michigan.

With those adjustments, the amount of money now owed to the investors is $467,709.08, not including interest.

Late last week, the court entered a final judgment order in the case, according to court records.