Lawsuit filed over diesel-containing sinkhole in Bayou Corne area

Michelle Keahey Aug. 31, 2012, 3:40am


NEW ORLEANS - Residents located near the Bayou Corne area have filed a lawsuit that claims they need medical monitoring due to exposure of toxins that were released from a diesel-containing sinkhole in 2011.

Lisa T. Leblanc, Nathan J. Leblanc, Beverly S. Vaughn, Jay M. Vaughn, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed suit against Texas Brine Co. on Aug. 10 in federal court in New Orleans.

Allegedly caused by the failure of a salt cavern, the sinkhole emerged on Aug. 3, 2012 and is approximately 422 feet deep and 372 feet wide.

The sinkhole allegedly released a foul diesel odor and created a salt-water slurry and contained diesel. The suit claims that the defendant had used a salt cavern as a deposit area for naturally occurring radioactive material arising from drilling.

According to the lawsuit, the defendant began reworking the cavern well in September 2010 by milling a section of salt higher than the existing cavern roof. By January 2011, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources was informed about a failed integrity test of the cavern and that the cavern may have breached the Napoleonville Dome's outer wall. The cavern was plugged in June 2011.

The plaintiffs state that they live in Assumption Parish and were forced to evacuate their homes, which are located in the Bayou Corne area.

The defendant is accused of violations of the Clean Water Act, negligence, nuisance, trespass, strict liability, negligence per se and products liability.

Specifically, the defendant is accused of failing to properly design the cavern, failing to properly inspect the cavern and the milling operation being conducted, acting in a careless and negligent manner, failing to properly train their personnel, failing to take appropriate action to avoid or mitigate the escape of pressure which lead to the formation of the sink hole, and for failing to react to react to danger signs.

The lawsuit is seeking an award of civil penalties, economic and compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, attorney's fees, medical monitoring and injunctive relief.

The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel E. Becnel, Jr., Matthew Moreland, Kevin P. Klibert, Salvadore Christina and Jennifer L. Crose of Becnel Law Firm in Reserve, Pierre Part attorney Lana Ourso Chaney, New Orleans attorney Richard G. Perque and Autumn A. Town. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:12-cv-02059

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