No Liability Because Company Did Not Know It Was Creating a Nuisance

Bob and Lisa Parr did not prove that Aruba Petroleum knew that it was interfering with their property.  As a result, they do not get the almost $3 million in damages awarded by a jury.  Instead, they get nothing, according to the Dallas Court of Appeals, a mid-level Texas appellate court, in Aruba Petroleum v. Parr.

Jury Found Intentional Nuisance and Awarded Almost $3 Million

At trial, the Parrs claimed that spills, leaks, emissions, odors, noise, and bright lights from Aruba’s natural gas extraction activities caused physical injuries and property damage.  The jury determined that Aruba was not negligent, but that Aruba intentionally created a nuisance.  The jury awarded almost $3 million in damages.

Evidence of Intent Was Legally Insufficient

The Dallas Court reversed, holding that the Parrs had not proved that Aruba intended to create a nuisance.  The Court rendered judgment that the Parrs take nothing.

As the Texas Supreme Court ruled recently (See my June 28, 2016 Alert), plaintiffs can recover for nuisances if the defendant was negligent or if the defendant intentionally created the nuisance condition.  To intentionally create a nuisance condition, the defendant must either desire to substantially interfere with another’s property or know that a substantial interference would result from the defendant’s conduct.

Aruba Did not Know

The Dallas Court determined that the Parrs did not prove that Aruba knew that its actions would substantially interfere with the Parr’s property.

The Parrs argued that their complaints to Aruba and to the TCEQ were legally sufficient for the jury to conclude that Aruba knew its ongoing actions were harming the Parrs.  However, the Court cited the lack of proof that the Parrs’ complaints specifically identified their property as being harmed by Aruba.  In some instances, Aruba was not told who was making the complaints.  In other cases, the complaints were of a more general nature, and did not specifically describe interferences with the Parrs’ property.

The Parrs failed to prove that Aruba knew that its actions would substantially interfere, and the Parrs lost on their allegation of negligence.  Instead of almost $3 million, the Dallas Court ruled that the Parrs get nothing.

For a copy of the Dallas Court’s opinion click here.

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