ConocoPhillips petitions to move pollution damage case to federal court

By John Breslin | Jul 10, 2018

MONROE – An oil company recently asked a federal court to assume jurisdiction in a case centering on claims that land was contaminated by the activities the company and several other companies named as defendants.

MONROE – An oil company recently asked a federal court to assume jurisdiction in a case centering on claims that land was contaminated by the activities the company and several other companies named as defendants.

ConocoPhillips filed the notice of removal June 29 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division.

The company, and co-defendant Total Petrochemicals, argue said in the filing that the federal court is the right venue because of diversity of jurisdiction – the companies are citizens of Delaware and Texas while a number of the plaintiffs are based in Mississippi – and that the amount involved is over $75,000.

The underlying complaint stating several properties "have been contaminated or otherwise damaged by defendants' oil and gas exploration and production activities" was originally filed in Louisiana's Fifth Judicial District Court for Richland Parish.

ConocoPhillips and Total were named as co-defendants along with a number of other oil and gas-linked companies, all based in Louisiana.

But, according to the filing by Conoco, those Louisiana-based defendants were "improperly joined" because the plaintiffs "failed to state factual allegations" against them and they are all "inactive, defunct entities."

The diversity of jurisdiction also comes into play as plaintiffs James E. Lowry and Charles M. Johnson live in Louisiana while three others, Jimmy R. Smith, Donald W. Smith and Leslie H. Smith, are based in Mississippi.

The original complaint claims that approximately 225 acres of property was damaged by operations carried out by the companies.

In further argument for removal to the federal court, ConocoPhillips said the amount being asked for the plaintiffs will exceed $75,000. This is, according to ConocoPhillips, because the plaintiffs are asking for "compensatory damages, punitive and exemplary damages."

The plaintiffs have also asked for damages for the lowering of property value and "costs of restoring the property to its original condition," as well as other monies.

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