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Fracking Verdict Positive News for People Sickened by Fracking Contamination

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Dallas, TXOn April 22 - which coincidentally happened to be Earth Day - a Dallas jury awarded a Texas family $2.9 million in the nuisance claim they brought against Aurba Petroleum Inc. It is the first fracking lawsuit to result in a jury award and likely good news for other families who have been sickened by contaminated water and fracking chemicals.

The Parr family also sued several other drilling companies nearby: all but one of those suits was settled out of court (one was dismissed). Aruba Petroleum possibly made an expensive mistake by not offering to settle.

Aruba Petroleum’s closest natural gas well was just 791 feet away from the Parrs’ property. It also had 22 gas wells within a two-mile radius, three of which were close to the family home. The lawsuit alleged that Aruba created a “private nuisance” to the Parr family as a result of poor management and lack of emission controls: it produced harmful air pollution and exposed them to harmful emissions of volatile organic compounds, toxic air pollutants and diesel exhaust.

The Parr family began to have serious health issues back in 2008 but had no idea it was caused by multitudes of drilling operations springing up near their home, mainly because the wells were not on their property. According to CNN, Lisa Parr’s first symptoms were migraine headaches and flu-like issues, but by 2009 her central nervous system was affected to the point that her vision was impaired and she was vomiting white foam. Her husband, Robert, and daughter then became ill with nosebleeds, rashes and blood pressure problems.

By the summer of 2010, Lisa Parr knew the “loud operation” close by was toxic. She told CNN that “One night, our whole house was vibrating and shaking. We lease that property for our cattle and so I went over to make sure our cattle wasn’t around there, and when I went over there my nose and throat started burning.”

Lisa’s doctor found 20 chemicals in her body and told her to move immediately or she would wind up on chemotherapy and possibly dead. He advised her to seek an environmental health doctor. In 2011, the Parrs filed fracking lawsuits against nine drilling companies asking for $66 million in damages.

Since hearing this verdict, Cathy (not her real name) is considering filing a nuisance claim against Chesapeake Energy. “We live just across the street from their fracking operation,” she says. “My whole family is suffering from rashes and nausea. I had to put one of our cats to sleep and the other is very sick. Our neighbor has similar symptoms - this is awful. It really hurts when your kids hurt.”

Private nuisance lawsuit

The Parrs filed a private nuisance claim, alleging that Aruba Petroleum engages in activity that interferes with the plaintiff’s right to enjoy his property. A land owner is entitled to a certain level of comfort that is free from interference while on his private property. Private nuisance can come in the form of physical damage to the property or the disturbance of comfort. According to laws.com, in order for a defendant’s interference to be considered a nuisance, it must be both substantial and unreasonable. The interference must cause substantial damage to the plaintiff, and the interference with the plaintiff’s comfort must be greater than the benefits of the defendant’s conduct.

Brad Gilde, the Parrs’ attorney, believes this verdict marks an important precedent for the future of natural gas production. “Because of their courage and determination for justice, the Parrs have successfully held Aruba Petroleum Inc. accountable for their careless and reckless behavior,” he told CNN. Opponents of hydraulic fracking call the verdict a landmark and game changer, particularly because it involves all the operations that go along with the oil and gas industry, and not just fracking.

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