On April 22, 2014, a Dallas County, Texas jury awarded a family $2.9 million dollars for personal injury and property damages arising out of their suit against Aruba Petroleum, Inc. The jury’s verdict includes damage awards of $2.25 million for past and future physical pain and suffering, $400,000 in mental anguish, and $275,000 in property damages for loss of the market value of their property.
The main target of the jury’s award was to compensate the Parr family, a husband, wife and their minor daughter, for illnesses they allegedly suffered as a result of exposure to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and other compounds used by Aruba, while it engaged in hydraulic fracturing operations on properties adjoining the Parrs’ ranch, which lies on top of the Barnett Shale-formation in North Texas. Plaintiffs alleged that the 22 wells Aruba operated within a two-mile radius of their land exposed them to hazardous gases, chemicals and industrial waste that made them sick and affected their ability to live in their home.
The jury’s verdict was based in large part on the Plaintiffs’ proposed jury charge; however, the Court only instructed the jury as to the Plaintiffs’ claim for private nuisance, not the Plaintiffs’ other two remaining claims against Aruba for negligence per se and trespass. Aruba has indicated that it will file post-verdict motions and appeal any final judgment in the case.
Comments from Aruba’s counsel indicate that the post-verdict motions and possible appeals will focus on the difficulties Plaintiffs face in proving that one of Aruba’s wells was the proximate cause of their alleged damages, since Aruba’s wells make up a small percentage of the large number of wells that surround Plaintiffs’ property.