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Plaintiffs draw on environmental law in earthquake litigation

A little known environmental threat has come to the surface in another state, but the ominous message is one that must be kept in mind in Georgia as well. An earthquake that occurred there has been tied by scientists to ongoing corporate waste disposal practices in the area. A class action lawsuit has been filed there on behalf of residents who have been experiencing tremors for years. Recently, the area suffered a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, which has created a unique interchange between environmental law and earthquake occurrences.

Since the Sept. 3 earthquake, there have been at least 52 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or lower, according to published reports. The lawsuit that was filed is requesting relief for physical and emotional suffering endured by residents as a result of the earthquake and hundreds of tremors in recent years. The lawsuit lays the cause for the seismic activity directly on the shoulders of the local energy companies.

Two companies, Eagle Road Oil LLC and Cummings Oil Company, are defendants in the case filed in an Oklahoma court. The precise mechanism of how the energy companies caused the earthquake and the tremors is not revealed in public news reports. That will be a necessary element of proof in the case. The plaintiffs must show that the corporate waste disposal practices of the two defendant companies are substantial factors in causing the earthquake activity.

If the plaintiffs succeed in proving causation they will be entitled to damages. The legal theory of recovery could be based on a number of causes of action, including a tortious nuisance and/or the operation of an abnormally dangerous activity. There may be several other potential legal causes of action that would justify a recovery of damages once the direct connection is made between the corporate activities and the seismic insults to the area. The same would be true if the problem occurred in Georgia or any other state. Scientific evidence will thus prove to be the central moving force behind the plaintiffs' claims in this unique piece of litigation based on environmental law.

Source:, "Law firm files class action suit against oil and gas companies in wake of Pawnee quake", Nov. 18, 2016

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