Sickened family awarded $3 million in landmark fracking case

"The first fracking verdict in U.S. history” holds the industry responsible for health and property damage

Published April 23, 2014 7:00PM (EDT)

   (Calin Tatu/Shutterstock)
(Calin Tatu/Shutterstock)

$3 million. That's how much a jury in Dallas decided a local family was owed by Aruba Petroleum after the fracking company “intentionally created a private nuisance” on their property.

Bob and Linda Parr sued Aruba back in 2011, arguing that the company's 22 wells, all within two miles of their 40-acre property, had caused significant damage to their health and land. "We can't drink our well water," Robert Parr told a local news station at the time. "We can't breathe the air without getting sick." They also testified that their daughter, Emma, suffered from severe nosebleeds.

Their award totals $2.925 million: $275,000 for loss of property value; $2 million for past physical pain and suffering; $250,000 for future physical pain and suffering; and $400,000 for mental anguish.

The Parrs' attorney calls the ruling “the first fracking verdict in U.S. history.” ThinkProgress has more on why, dollar amount aside, it was so significant:

“A lot of the earlier tort cases [against fracking companies] were dismissed because the industry was so successful at withholding information that people couldn’t draw connections between the problems and what industry were doing,” [Earthjustice managing attorney Deborah] Goldberg told ThinkProgress. “Now studies are starting to be done, and people are beginning to realize that they can document what the impacts are going to be.”

...A gradual increase in information about fracking’s health impacts was probably the reason the Parrs were able to prove to an unbiased jury that they were, in fact, harmed, Goldberg said.

“[The companies] really had an effective campaign of secrecy that protected them,” she said. “But now, as we get more and more information about what the impacts of this industry really are, I think we’re going to see more and more of these kinds of verdicts.”

By Lindsay Abrams

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