THE MAYFLOWER SPILL: another court decision.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld
a lower court decision to dismiss a lawsuit by all property owners along the easement for the Pegasus pipeline, now owned by ExxonMobil,
which runs from Texas to Illinois and ruptured in 2013 in Mayflower, Ark.
After initially approving a class action, federal Judge Brian Miller
reversed his decison and granted summary judgment to the oil company.
Property owners were demanding repair, replacement or removal. They asserted a breach of contract on easement purchases because events had proved the line was unsafe. Miller decided the characteristics varied widely and so each claim had to be examined individually. Landowners said ExxonMobil had so neglected maintenance that it should be treated as a single unit. Among other things, Exxon increased the flow and began shipping heavy crude from Canadian tar sands through the line for the break. A good summary here of legal arguments.
In rejecting class action status, Miller left only four Arkansas plaintiffs, Rudy and Betty Webb and Arnez and Charletha Harper. He dismissed their claim because he said the easement contract, under Arkansas law, didn't include a duty for the oil company on maintenance of the line. Plus, the plaintiffs conceded
that the oil company had not caused any damage to their specific property.
The court also rejected a claim that new evidence argued for reopening of the case.
ExxonMobil has settled one lawsuit
over specific spill damage for $5 million. Other legal actions pend.