MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A jury ordered Exxon Mobil Corp. to pay $11.9 billion in damages Friday after finding the oil giant had cheated the state of Alabama out of natural gas royalties.
The jury, which began deliberating Thursday, awarded $63.6 million in compensatory damages and $11.8 billion in punitive damages, a record in the state.
Jurors had to find Exxon Mobil committed fraud to return the multibillion-dollar verdict Alabama sought. If the damages are upheld on appeal, the money would go into state coffers.
‘‘We felt Exxon thought they were going to get away with this,’’ said jury foreman Joe King, a teacher. ‘‘We wanted to send a message that they were not, and that this corporation can’t get away with doing wrong.’’
Exxon Mobil spokesman Bob Davis said the verdict was excessive and the company would appeal. The state sued Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil in 1999, contending the company had violated its leases for natural gas wells in state-owned waters along the Alabama coast.