Texas family awarded $3 million for fracking damages
In a landmark legal victory that centered on fracking, a middle-class north Texas ranching family won nearly $3 million from a big natural gas company whose drilling, they contend, caused years of sickness, killed pets and livestock, and forced them out of their home for months.
Tuesday’s $2.95-million civil verdict by a six-person Dallas jury is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation. Other landowners have sued over drilling and reached settlements, but legal experts think this is the first jury verdict.
Robert and Lisa Parr filed suit against Aruba Petroleum Inc. in 2011, contending that its operations near their land had contaminated the air and harmed their health. Their lawsuit has been closely watched by both critics and supporters of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves pumping water laced with chemicals into shale formations to unlock trapped oil and gas.
“I am just overwhelmed,” Lisa Parr said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I feel like I am just this little bitty girl, this little family who just beat the biggest, most powerful industry in the world.”
Aruba Petroleum, based in Plano, Texas, said it had done nothing wrong and had operated within safe and legal guidelines. “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,” Aruba said in a statement.
The company said it would appeal.