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A Texas family has won a $2.96 million fracking-pollution lawsuit that's believed to be the first jury verdict of its kind in the United States.
Robert and Lisa Parr own a ranch near the north Texas town of Decatur, a 40-acre parcel that had allegedly been polluted by Aruba Petroleum Inc.'s nearby fracking and drilling activities, reports the Los Angeles Times. Deleterious health effects forced the Parrs out of their ranch home and into the back of Robert's business office -- 30 miles east.
Will this set a precedent for future fracking-related lawsuits?
Fracking Caused Serious Health Problems
The Parrs sued nine different companies involved in the drilling near their ranch, asking for $66 million in damages for the health problems caused by the fracking operation, reports the Times.
Fracking is used in more than 40 percent of natural gas extraction in the United States, and it has the potential to create hazardous or toxic byproducts. Lisa Parr suffered from rashes, open sores, and blinding headaches beginning in 2008 when fracking began near the Parrs' ranch. Their daughter had frequent nosebleeds around the same period and would allegedly awaken "soaked in blood," reports the Times.
It was likely testimony about these sorts of health effects that led a Texas jury to award the family $2.95 million in their case against Aruba. Many of the other companies involved in the fracking had either settled with the Parrs or were dropped from the suit prior to the recent trial.
No Punitive Damages
Like any injury plaintiffs, the Parrs' damages likely included past, present, and future medical costs associated with their fracking-related injuries. Lisa worries about her adolescent daughter's future health, as many potential issues could arise "decades from now," reports the Times.
Most fracking lawsuits deal largely with property damage -- damage to land, crops, and livestock. But the Parrs' multimillion-dollar award may signal that oil and gas companies can be held responsible for negative health effects of fracking.
The Parrs' recovery didn't include punitive damages, however, because the jury did not find that Aruba had acted with malice.
Still, Aruba plans to have the award reconsidered, stating that it believed the verdict "was not consistent with the evidence," reports Dallas-Fort Worth's KERA News. Meantime, the Parrs are free to discuss not only their victory but their opinions on the dangers of fracking.