Girardi | Keese

Big business loses, jury supports family in personal injury suit

So-called big oil took a hit in another state last month as a jury concluded that the company's activities caused a family's illness. Reportedly, they were forced to leave their property because of alleged adverse health conditions. The personal injury suit began in 2011, and concluded with a jury verdict supporting the plaintiffs. As is often the case when an individual prevails, the business reports that it will appeal the verdict.

At issue was alleged ground water contamination from a fracking operation run by the defendants. A variety of waste and airborne pollution relating to the natural gas and other drilling were also claimed in the lawsuit. Beginning in 2009, the family complained of rashes, dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds and other symptoms of ill health. Also impacted on their 40-acre ranch were livestock and pets.

The plaintiffs' counsel states that he believes this verdict is a game-changer for fracking operations across the country. Reportedly, many studies have shown the connection between health issues and this type of drilling, although the attorney maintains that processes haven't changed because of those findings.

The family initially named another oil company in its 2011 complaint, but they reportedly settled out of court. At trial, defense counsel argued that with 100-plus wells within two miles of the property, determining which of them caused damages, if any, wasn't likely.

The jury awarded $3 million in compensation to the family, who had initially sought $9 million. Some speculate this could strengthen the litigation position of others seeking compensation for alleged ill health as a result of fracking. Experts will continue to provide study results as time goes on, and this information could play a role in future civil matters and appellate court decisions.

Whether California personal injury claims are relatively straightforward or complex, as this case is, it's critical that supported evidence be acquired. Gaining a solid understanding of what claims are likely to result in the desired outcome is next. Individuals have a chance to prevail against big business when knowledgeable, sound and effective legal strategies are used.

Source: The Blaze, "Texas Family Awarded Millions in Lawsuit Over Health Issues Related to Fracking" Liz Kilmas, Apr. 24, 2014

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