By Marisa Hicks
Log Cabin Staff Writer
A Faulkner County circuit judge mandated parties involved in lawsuits against ExxonMobil groups go through mediation in hopes to resolve outstanding issues.
Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson set deadlines for mediation in six outstanding cases against the gas giant in a pretrial hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 30.
The lawsuits stem from an incident in March 2013 where a 22-foot seam in the Pegasus pipeline ruptured and spilled roughly 3,190 barrels of oil near Mayflower and Lake Conway, causing 22 homes to be evacuated. Exxon Mobil demolished three homes after oil had seeped under the foundation.
Collectively, more than 90 plaintiffs have filed complaints against Exxon Mobil Corporation, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company L.P., Mobil Pipe Line Company and ExxonMobil Oil Corporation. Complaints have also been filed against David Raulston, Jimmie Hooks, Matt Stach and Rickey Holloway, who are listed as maintenance and operations technicians for the Pegasus Pipeline.
Plaintiffs and defendants agreed two cases — Kenneth Hobby et al v. ExxonMobile Pipeline etal (23CV-14-200) and Jason Hays etal v. Exxon Mobil Corporation etal (23CV-14-877) — could be solved simultaneously while the other four cases would remain separate.
Clawson ordered these two parties to complete mediation by March 15 and if neither party reached an agreement by then, trial dates would be set.
The majority of the plaintiffs within the six cases are part of Jason Hays etal v. Exxon Mobil Corporation etal.
Plaintiffs argue that "ExxonMobil, despite learning of the drop in pressure in the Pegasus Pipeline, as early as 1:15 p.m., did not immediately report the incident to the National Response Center as required by law. Instead, ExxonMobil waited approximately three (3) hours until its employees were on the scene, reporting at 4:06 p.m." in a complaint filed in the Hays case.
The complaint states plaintiffs seek a jury trial and as well as compensation for medical, personal and real property damages, among several other restitutions and damages expenses.
Clawson said the court would be mindful in setting trial dates, noting each case would most likely take a week to resolve.
"We may be looking at four weeks," Clawson said of setting trial dates for the two joined cases. "If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes."
Clawson also set mediation deadlines for DWB LLC d/b/a Mayflower RV v. ExxonMobil Pipeline (March 31), Michelle Ward et al v. ExxonMobil Pipeline Company et al (March 31), Delbert and Linda Dawson etal v. ExxonMobil etal (Feb. 15) and Jeff Duncan et al v. Exxon Mobil Corportation et al (May 15).
A bench trial has already been set in Delbert and Linda Dawson etal v. ExxonMobil etal. This matter is set for jury trial April 12 and 13.
Defense attorney Michael Barnes also reported to the court there was a monitor well located on the Ward property that Exxon would like to remove. He said the process would take about three hours but that Exxon has been denied access to the well.
Clawson said he would not rule on the matter at the time. He said if the only reason Exxon has been denied access to the well was because the plaintiff simply did not want him at the residence he would make a ruling in the defendant’s favor.
(Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)