Sunday, February 7, 2016

Arkansas homeowner wins verdict for damages caused by vibrations from nearby oil drilling operations


 

The federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a landowner who alleged her home was damages by vibrations from drilling operations. The judgment in favor of the plaintiff was affirmed in Hiser v. XTO Energy. Inc., No. 13–3443 (8th Cir. Oct. 3, 2014).

Ruby Hiser filed a lawsuit against XTO Energy Inc. in Arkansas. Ms. Hiser had lived in her home for six years before XTO began drilling operations nearby. XTO began drilling a gas well on property adjacent to Ms. Hiser’s home in February 2009. According to Ms. Hiser, it was around this time that she started feeling vibrations. Ms. Hiser testified at trial that she feels the vibrations and hears her house “crackle” when XTO’s drill is in use. She testified that people who stayed the night in her home also felt the vibrations. Several witnesses also testified at trial they had felt the vibrations when visiting Ms. Hiser’s property.

Justin Hall, a licensed professional engineer, examined Ms. Hiser’s home on June 5, 2009. Mr. Hall testified that he could hear the nearby drilling during his inspection of Ms. Hiser’s home. Based on his experience, the inspection, and the proximity of the drilling equipment to Ms. Hiser’s home, approximately 150 feet at the time, Mr. Hall concluded that XTO’s drilling was the source of the vibrations. Mr. Hall opined that the damage to Ms. Hiser’s home is consistent with vibrations from drilling, not the result of poor construction.  MORE