February 4, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 35

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February 03, 2023

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February 02, 2023

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Release Agreements Bar Tort Claims in Fourth Circuit Fracking Case

In a victory for hydraulic fracturing operators that underscores the importance of contractual release agreements, the Fourth Circuit found surface owners’ trespass and negligence claims foreclosed by the plain language of such an agreement. Hagy et al v. Equitable Prod. Co. et al, No. 12-1926 (4th Cir. 2013). 

After receiving notice that Defendant Equitable Production Company was preparing to drill under the land, Plaintiffs Dennis and Tamara Hagy signed surface owner waivers for all the new wells.Hagy, slip op. at 3. The waivers stated that the property owner (the  Hagys) “irrevocably and unconditionally releases, acquits and forever discharges” the drilling company “from any and all claims of any kind or nature . . . whether known or unknown and whether now existing or yet to accrue.” Id. at 7. In 2010, alleging that they experienced water contamination and health problems as a result of the drilling, the Hagys brought negligence and trespass claims against Equitable as well as another drilling company, BJ Services. Id. at 4-5. 

The Fourth Circuit upheld the release agreements, finding that the Plaintiffs had adequate opportunity to consult legal counsel in negotiating the agreements and that there was no evidence that the releases were procured by fraud. Id. at 7. Additionally, the court rejected the Plaintiffs’ trespass and negligence claims against BJ Services, stating that the Hagys failed to “connect any allegedly wrongful conduct . . . with the harm they claim to have suffered.” Id at 7-8.

© 2023 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 42
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About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

212-702 5417
Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

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...

212-702-5415
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