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.