August 11, 2020

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August 11, 2020

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August 10, 2020

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Missouri Federal Court Cuts Claims in Pipeline Property Damage Action

Underscoring the need for plaintiffs to show concrete proof of harm in suits alleging property damage, a federal district court dismissed a suit alleging that an oil pipeline contaminated farmland in Missouri. See Henke v. ARCO Midcon, L.L.C., No. 4:10cv00086 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 5, 2015).

Plaintiffs, owners of a 77-acre parcel, filed a putative class action alleging that a pipeline running across the northern edge of their property caused petroleum contamination on approximately half an acre of land. Plaintiffs’ suit, which alleged nuisance, trespass, and negligence claims, principally relied on leak records that did not identify the parcels where leaks occurred, as well as an expert affidavit asserting that Plaintiffs’ property may have lost value due to the presence of oil contamination.

In granting Defendant’s summary judgment motion, the court found that Plaintiffs’ affidavit, which included “speculation that the property may be diminished in value in the event of a future sale of different use,” was insufficient to show Plaintiffs had suffered a legally recognized injury to support a nuisance claim. Henke, Slip Op. at 11. The court further opined that Plaintiffs would have needed to have shown some interference with the property’s use for farming, a need for remediation, or at least that they had concrete plans to sell the land to show actual harm in support of a negligence claim.

Moreover, the court found the record was devoid of any evidence to establish that Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiffs that it had breached. The court also briefly disposed of Plaintiffs’ trespass claims on the basis that Plaintiffs completely failed to show that Defendant engaged in any intentional act causing harm to the property.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume V, Number 47


About this Author

Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Mackenzie’s practice includes both litigation and regulatory matters arising under FIFRA, the Clean Water Act, and related environmental laws.

She is passionate about conserving air, water, wildlife, and land for future generations, and enjoys helping clients navigate and enforce the detailed framework of environmental law because she believes compliance is key to preventing adverse impacts to the environment.

Mackenzie is a co-chair of Beveridge & Diamond’s Industrial Hemp & Cannabis industry team. She advises clients, and regularly writes and presents, on federal...