Landowner Wins $2.1 Million Judgment Against Gas Pipeline Company
Texas Landowners Win $2.1 Million Judgment Against Pipeline Company Over Lower Property Value
Yesterday ABC News reported on another significant victory in the struggle landowners face when confronted by unwanted shale gas pipelines, which can cause lasting damage while endangering not only property, but life.
Legal strategies along these lines are emerging as increasingly important as the oil and gas industry moves quickly to build pipelines to export LNG and NGLs (natural gas liquids), which would increase the devastation fracking causes to climate and to impacted communities. Here’s the news:
Case marks third landowner victory in pipeline easement disputes
CLEBURNE, Texas, March 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — North Texas family members have won a $2.1 million verdict against a pipeline company after their parcel of land lost value because an easement was taken for a gas line. This marks the third time Texas property owners recently have prevailed in similar eminent domain cases.
The Johnson County dispute represents a fundamental debate between the pipeline industry and Texas landowners: Does a pipeline devalue only the narrow easement strip or some larger portion of the overall property? The jury agreed that land outside the easement lost value.
“This verdict sends a strong message that pipeline easements often cause significant damages to property beyond the easement area,” says Austin-based eminent domain attorney Luke Ellis of Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, who represented the family partnership at trial. “Unfortunately, many Texas landowners don’t realize that they have a constitutional right to seek just compensation for such damages.”
The dispute began in 2007 when Midland-based Peregrine Pipeline Co. sued family-owned Eagle Ford Land Partners to gain a mile-long easement for a natural gas pipeline. Peregrine claimed Eagle Ford’s damages totaled only about$80,000. The family’s appraisers and lawyers countered that damages should account not only for the easement strip, but also for the loss in value to the remaining property.
After a one-week trial in County Court at Law No. 2 in Johnson County, jurors awarded the family partnership more than $1.6 million. Judge Robert Dohoney entered the final judgment of $2.1 million, which includes interest. The case is Peregrine Pipeline Co., L.P. v. Eagle Ford Land Partners, LP, No. E-2007-00046. Peregrine plans to appeal.
The judgment continues a trend in similar Texas condemnation cases and is one of the largest so far in favor of a landowner. Last year, the Texas Supreme Court denied review of a McMullen County verdict against LaSalle Pipeline LP. Earlier this month a Fort Worth appeals court denied reconsideration of its decision in favor of a landowner over Crosstex DC Gathering Co.
Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, a trial and appellate boutique with offices in Austin and Houston, focuses on commercial litigation, eminent domain, probate and fiduciary matters, and appeals. Visit the firm online at http://jmehlaw.com/the-firm/.