FIRST TORT RULING IN A MARCELLUS GAS DAMAGE CASE — by Joel R. Burcat, Esq., Saul Ewing LLP, Harrisburg
In Fiorentino v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., No. 09-CV-2284, 2010 WL 4595524 (M.D. Pa., Nov. 15, 2010), the United States District Court addressed a variety of issues in the first ruling to arise from a tort claim for personal injuries and property damage from Marcellus Shale Gas drilling. This case arises out of the allegations in Dimock, Pennsylvania that drilling for Marcellus Shale gas by the defendant, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., caused property damage and personal injuries to residents.
As has been highlighted both in a documentary movie and on 60 Minutes, drinking water supplies have been alleged to contain methane, natural gas and other toxins and allegedly have been released onto plaintiff’s land. Plaintiffs brought suit seeking an injunction prohibiting future natural gas operations, seeking compensatory and punitive damages, the cost of future health monitoring, attorneys’ fees and other unspecified relief.
The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged the following claims against the defendant: 1) Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, 35 P.S. §§ 6020.101 et seq. (“HSCA”); 2) negligence; 3) private nuisance; 4) strict liability; 5) breach of contract; 6) fraudulent misrepresentation; 7) medical monitoring trust funds; and 8) gross negligence.
The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the claims brought pursuant to HSCA, strict liability, medical monitoring and gross negligence. The defendant also filed a motion to strike a number of allegations largely related to the claims they were seeking to dismiss, as well as negligence per se and attorneys’ fees. The ruling by Judge John E. Jones, related only to the motion to dismiss these claims and the motion to strike. For the most part, in his ruling, the Judge sided with the plaintiffs.
Whether the court should dismiss claims against a natural gas drilling company relating to HSCA, strict liability, medical monitoring and gross negligence.
Whether the court should strike allegations relating to punitive damages, negligence per se and attorneys’ fees.