On Tuesday, an Arkansas federal judge certified a class of landowners in a lawsuit filed against Exxon Mobil Corp. The lawsuit was filed over a Pegasus pipeline that ruptured in 2012, spilling over 19,000 barrels. According to Law 360, the court certified the class because plaintiffs were able to show that common questions predominated over individual questions.
“Plaintiffs have shown that common issues predominate; all issues arise out of the plaintiffs’ easements and concern common questions of Exxon’s operation and maintenance of the pipeline,” said U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller. He certified a class of real property owners “who have pipeline physically crossing their property, from Pakota, Illinois, to Corsicana, Texas.” And who have an easement on their property for the pipeline.
In April 2013, plaintiffs Rudy and Betty Webb and Arnez and Charletha Harper alleged that Exxon breached an easement contract that promised to maintain, operate and replace the pipeline that runs through property from Illinois to Texas. The violation of this contract led to “the worst oil and tar sands spill in Arkansas history” the suit alleged. The plaintiffs are looking for “specific performance” of the easement contracts, mandating that Exxon replaces the pipeline, according to court documents, or recession of the easement s and removal of the pipeline from their properties.
In October, Judge Miller rejected a motion to dismiss the case. Exxon argued that “the plaintiffs couldn’t seek specific performance or an order for the defendants to stop running the pipeline because federal law preempts this and allows only the secretary of transportation to have full authority over the safety of interstate pipelines” according to Law360. The subject of what plaintiffs can receive should only be discussed if they are successful at trial, Miller ruled.
“Thus, Exxon’s argument that the class should not be certified on that basis is unpersuasive,” Judge Miller stated. “Moreover, now that the class has been narrowed to only include those individuals with both an easement and the pipeline on their property, it should be much simpler to ascertain who is actually affected.”