Barnett Shale fracking company must pay Texas family almost $3 million for health problems, property damage linked to fracking chemicals

Posted
by John Chapman

Bob and Lisa Parr own a 40-acre ranch in Wise County, Texas. The property is within the Barnett Shale, one of the country’s most prolific natural gas production areas as a result of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques. Within two miles of the Parr’s property, Aruba Petroleum Inc. operated 22 hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, sites.

The family began to experience health problems and, after a while, began to suspect the gases, chemicals and other wastes released into the ground and air by the nearby fracking operations. The Parrs sued Aruba Petroleum in 2011 alleging that spills and emissions from the company’s fracking operations had contaminated their property, including their source of drinking water. A Dallas jury has now agreed with the Parrs. The jury determined that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” and proximately caused the Parrs to incur health problems and property damages.

In their lawsuit, the family blamed pollutants from fracking for causing them to suffer:

discomfort; annoyance; sickness; injury to physical health; impairment of physical health; exacerbation of physical health and/or preexisting health conditions; harm from assault on Plaintiffs’ senses; nausea; loss of peace of mind; emotional harm/distress; inconvenience; deprivation of enjoyment of property; headaches; migraines; body aches; rashes throughout the body; permanent scarring; open sores in the nose, ears, and throughout body; chronic nose bleeding; ringing in the ears; dizziness; nausea; drowsiness; rapid or irregular heartbeat; tremors; confusion; irritation of the stomach; coughing; choking; fever; tachypnea; grunting; wheezing; lethargy; ataxia; abdominal pain; arrhythmia; anisocoria; depression; and asthma and/or asthma-like symptoms.

At trial, Robert Parr testified that at times his daughter would bleed heavily from her nose and wake in the middle of night covered with blood. Meanwhile, household pets and livestock died and other animals on the property experienced growth stunting.

Lisa Parr testified that she suffered breathing difficulties, nausea, rashes that scarred with pock-marks, oozing welts on her scalp and four ping-pong-ball-sized lumps on her neck. Medical tests confirmed there were chemicals linked to fracking in Lisa’s blood.

In response, Aruba Petroleum argued the family’s problems were just as likely caused by other fracking companies in the area.

The jury awarded the Parrs $2 million for the family’s past pain and suffering, $250,000 for future pain and suffering and $400,000 for past mental anguish. The jury also awarded $275,000 for the family’s loss in property value,

Is there drilling and fracking pollution in your backyard?

A “nuisance” is any condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of your land by causing what would be considered “unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities attempting to use or enjoy it.” A nuisance may arise by causing (1) physical harm to property, such as by the encroachment of a damaging substance or by the property’s destruction, (2) physical harm to a person on his property from an assault on his senses or by other personal injury, and (3) emotional harm to a person from the deprivation of the enjoyment of his property through fear, apprehension, or loss of peace of mind.

In a lawsuit alleging that property damage or health problems were caused by chemical contamination from oil and gas drilling or fracking operations, it can be difficult to properly link the pollution to the injury. The law generally requires a plaintiff to prove the defendant’s conduct was at least a “substantial factor” in bringing about the plaintiff’s injury.

In a case alleging injury from toxic exposure, the evidence of causation will need to be premised on evidence from an qualified expert witness on (1) whether the disease (or injury) can be related to chemical exposure by a biologically plausible theory; (2) whether the plaintiff was exposed to the chemical in a manner that can lead to absorption in the body; and (3) whether the dose the plaintiff was exposed to is sufficient to cause the disease (or injury). In many cases, fracking companies have been able to successfully argue that the plaintiffs failed to present proper expert testimony to support their claims.

The bottom line is that pursuing a lawsuit against a fracking company can be expensive, difficult and time-consuming. The oil and gas industry is obviously well-funded and is willing to fight long and hard to avoid financial responsibility for the damage caused. To even the playing field, victims need experienced, aggressive attorneys who have the resources to properly prepare and bring a case to trial.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson also has the financial resources to handle personal injury cases from start to finish. In fact, there are many instances in which we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

Our firm is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form.

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.