Two Ohio women named as defendants in a defamation suit by Duck Creek Energy, Inc. have hit the company with a counterclaim, alleging the original lawsuit constitutes an abuse of process. The counterclaim alleges Duck Creek Energy filed the defamation lawsuit in an attempt to prevent concerned citizens from exercising their first amendment right of free speech and right to petition their government.
According to their counterclaim, Tish O’Dell and Michelle Aini, members of a group trying to prevent natural gas drilling via hydraulic fracturing in Cuyahoga County suburbs, have raised concerns about the environmental and health impact of their municipality’s use of a road deicing product manufactured by Duck Creek Energy, Inc. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the deicing product called AquaSalina™ is a saline product derived from brine produced at oil and gas wells.
The company filed a defamation lawsuit on March 20 against the women in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court alleging claims for defamation, tortious interference with business relations and tortious interference with prospective business relations. Duck Creek asserts that the deicer is not made with frack water, but rather salty water that follows during the extraction of gas.
According to the counterclaim filed by Ms. O’Dell and Ms. Aini, the most recent analysis of AquaSalina™ provided to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirms that AquaSalina™ contains benzene, a known human carcinogen, in an amount of 7.04 pm and the maximum allowable level of benzene in drinking water pursuant to Environmental Protection Agency regulations is 5 pm.
The two women allege in their counterclaim that Duck Creek is trying to harass them so they no longer “advise the public about the possible adverse health effects of plaintiff’s product being spread and dispersed on municipal streets.”
A statement issued by their attorneys said they were ready “to vigorously defend Ms. O’Dell and Ms. Aini against Duck Creek Energy, Inc.’s unabashed attempt to stifle their clients’ First Amendment Rights to petition their government regard the use and dispersal of AquaSalina™ on municipal roadways and other driving surfaces and the potential environmental and health effects such dispersal may have.”
Ms. O’Dell and Ms. Aini are being represented by the national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP and Ohio-based Climaco, Wilcox, Peca, Tarantino & Garofoli Co., LPA.