Texas Jury Awards $3 Million to Landowners

A recent Texas jury verdict has received national attention.  Last week, a 6-person Dallas County jury awarded $2.9 million to landowners who claim injuries from drilling and production of natural gas in the Barnett Shale.  The case, Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, is reported to be the first verdict of its kind in the United States.

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The plaintiffs owned 40 acres of land near Decatur, Texas.  Aruba Petroleum, an oil and gas production company, drilled 22 wells within two miles of the plaintiffs’ property.  Plaintiffs claim that the production caused a host of problems including injury to property, livestock, and the plaintiff’s physical wellbeing.  [Review Complaint here.]  Specifically, Plaintiffs complained of toxic chemicals in the air due to the production.

In 2011, Plaintiffs’ filed suit against several oil and gas companies claiming nuisance, negligence, and trespass.  (These other defendants were dropped from the suit or settled prior to trial.)  Aruba denied plaintiffs’ claims and argued that it had complied with all guidelines set by the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in producing oil and gas from the properties.

After a two and a half week trial, the Dallas County Jury found, 5-1, that a nuisance did exist and awarded extensive damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of $2.95 million.  According to plaintiffs’ attorney, David Matthews, the verdict included $275,000 for past physical pain and suffering, $250,000 for future pain and suffering, and $400,000 for past mental anguish.  Plaintiff Lisa Parr was quoted as saying that she was “very pleased with the verdict” and that “justice was served not only for us, but for every family in the world who has suffered from health effects and the negligence from this type of industry.”

Aruba Petroleum plans to appeal the decision and issued the following statement:  We contended the plaintiffs were neither harmed by the presence of our drilling operations nor was the value of their property diminished because of our natural gas development.  We presented thorough and expert testimony from recognized toxicologists and medical professionals, as well as local real estate professionals, to help the jury make an informed decision.  Unfortunately, they returned a verdict that we believe is counter to the evidence presented.”

To read news articles covering this story, click here and here and here.

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