Three Texas “Nuisance” Lawsuits, Three Different Outcomes

In the wake of the Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, Inc. verdict, the media has speculated extensively on the potential impact of this purported “anti-fracking” result. In Parr, on April 22, a Texas jury awarded $ 2.9 million to a family after finding that Aruba Petroleum’s neighboring drilling activity had created a private nuisance. The significance of Parr jury verdict is diminished, however, when viewed in context with the jury verdicts recently entered in two other Texas lawsuits alleging that the defendant’s drilling operations constituted a nuisance, Anglim v. Chesapeake Operating, Inc., No. 2011-008256-1 (County Ct. at Law No. 1, Tarrant County, TX), and Crowder et al. v. Chesapeake Operating Inc., No. 2011-008169-3 (County Ct. at Law No. 1, Tarrant County, TX).

In the Anglim case, decided two weeks prior to the Parr verdict, the plaintiff-landowner lost. The jury found that the defendant’s natural gas operations were not a private nuisance. In Crowder, which was decided a month after Parr, the jury awarded $20,000 to the plaintiff-landowners after finding that the defendant’s drilling operations were a temporary nuisance. Thus, although these verdicts show that nuisance claims against operating companies may be viable, the Parr verdict appears to be an anomaly rather than a reflection of the current legal environment for companies engaging in drilling activities.