Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has been in the news a lot recently. There have been heated battles between supporters and opponents of the activity, disputes that frequently boil over into legislative chambers and courtrooms. Supporters argue that fracking is a novel, though safe, approach to extract oil from the ground in otherwise hard to reach spots, which creates jobs and economic development. Critics argue that the chemicals used to bring the oil to the surface may be slowly poisoning the water supply and that the force with which the chemicals are pumped underground can cause earthquakes and untold other damage.
So far, these disputes have largely been one for legislators to consider, deciding whether or not to allow fracking to take place within the state. In a recent case out of Oklahoma, the dispute over fracking took a surprising and personal turn, with one plaintiff filing a personal injury lawsuit against a fracking company. Many believe the personal injury lawsuit is among the first of its kind and experts will be watching to see the outcome.
The lawsuit, Landra v. New Dominion, was filed by a plaintiff from Prague, Oklahoma, a town located in the heart of fracking country. In the case, the plaintiff asks for compensatory and punitive damages for injuries she claims were caused by New Dominion’s fracking wastewater disposal. The plaintiff says that in late 2011, she was watching TV in her house when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck, causing rock from her living room fireplace to fall onto her, seriously injuring both legs. The woman claims that her injuries amount to damage greater than $75,000.
Beyond this personal injury claim, the woman also filed a tort action against New Dominion, claiming that the company was engaged in ultrahazardous activity. This term refers to any activity that, by its very nature, involves a risk of serious harm that can never be mitigated against by exercising even the utmost levels of care. The plaintiff argues that New Dominion has the obligation to cease operating its fracking process in a way that causes such damage by contributing to seismic activity.
The initial case, filed at the local level, was dismissed. The judge decided that a state regulatory body had jurisdiction over cases concerning oil and gas operations. However, the plaintiff pushed forward, appealing all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the district court properly had jurisdiction to hear and decide the case. The Court said that while the regulatory agency has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas companies, they do not have exclusive jurisdiction to grant remedies to those who have suffered harm at the hands of oil and gas companies.
Though the Supreme Court allowed the personal injury claim arguing that fracking caused an earthquake to move forward, it did not make any comments regarding the merits of the case. As a result, it is not yet clear that this case will serve as an example for others. Now the hard part begins, with each side mustering experts and scientists to support its claim that fracking is either an ultrahazardous activity incapable of being performed safely, or an ordinary commercial activity whose harm can be easily protected against.
If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Mr. Arnold was born and raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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