“2006 Louisiana environmental law leads to jackpot justice”

Ted at Point of Law has details on an environmental-remediation law that has helped perpetuate a culture of big-ticket litigation: “One verdict awarded $54 million for environmental damage to a piece of land that was never worth more than $108,000.” We covered the long-running Exxon v. Grefer case, in which a jury ordered the oil company to pay $1 billion (later knocked down to $112 million) over an instance of contamination on land owned by a Louisiana judge’s family.


  • So, businesses foul up land. They don’t clean it up. Then there are lawsuits and they complain.

    If they had done their job in the first place, this never would have happened. Keeping oil drilling sites clean is expensive, but less expensive than endless litigation. I wonder when business will learn this.

  • “Foul up” is in the eye of the beholder. Jackpot justice causes indignation and is wrong.

  • Limiting the award to the value of the land would make sense if simply abandoning the dirtied-up land is an option (meaning both it is allowed and won’t result in damage spreading further). But I gather that neither of these things is true in current environmental law, which means that the award should reflect the actual cost of required cleanup. Do we know if this is so, or is this award merely punitive?

  • I live in Louisiana and can assure you that none of the land, homes, businesses, people are worth what the jury allowed. I also used to work in the oil field, putting myself through medical school, and can assure you that oil wells don’t do that much damage to the environment. Oil on the ground is gone in short order and crops readily grow in the area. This is just bad people trying to make an easy dollar at the expense of all of us.

  • What’s a good measure of the value of a piece of property that a company pollutes beyond repair?

    Is it the value of the land on the market? Is it the cost of fixing that often illegal damage? Is it some portion of either of these numbers because the party that broke the law is not 100% at fault?

    Maybe these folks should recover $0 and put up with it because david doesn’t think the oil spill in their front yards is that big of a deal…that’d be just.

  • Suggestion: read the articles linked at the end of Ted’s post.

  • Sam T above misunderstands David’s point. Environmental damage can be significant as happened in Pompey, or it could be trivial as in a broken thermometer in Carmel NY. David’s valid point is that oil pollution never was significant in his experience. It is my understanding that the environmental damage from the BP disaster was minor. The panic fed by our President really hurt many. I love the guy, but he is a jackass at times.

  • Some Uptown law school clinics helped a lot of people try to get fair treatment from the Road Home homeowner grant Program and helped people resolve successions and some of those effected by contractor fraud, Perhaps the idea is to eliminate organizations that would help indigent oil leak damage claimants trying to get fair treatment from BHP.

  • sam,
    Let me give you some personal experience with property spills and concerns. I live in a neighborhood with $700,000 + homes. The oil companies came to our neighborhood (in Louisiana) and wanted to drill for gas and oil. We had a neighborhood meeting with people who avergaed a net worth of about 1 million. Every single person volunteered their home and property for drilling!! They understood the draw backs with spillage, tearing up the roads, poison gas, and all the other problems that drilling can cause. No one cared! Despite the fact they were well off, they all wanted the royalities and lease money. Very likely, the judge in this case was not happy with the lease agreement that he made. The fact is that for people that understand the industry, they have no propblem with the oil companies.

  • Apologies for missing links–still figuring this site out. I think that using the links (about other cases as far as I can tell) lead to dangerous assumptions/generalizations where the particular facts and circumstances of case(s) arising from this law might help clarify what’s going on.

    “Happy contractual relationships are all alike; but every unhappy contractual relationship is unhappy in its own way” Humetrix, Inc. v. GEMPLUS SCA, 268 F. 3d 910 (See Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 1 (C. Garnett trans. 1933).)

    The point is that your neighbors bargained for an exchange and it sounds like they got what they bargained for. It’s risky to assume the contractual agreements affected by this law in this case worked the same as yours and only went bad because of environmental laws and evil lawyers.