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Class Action Suit Certified in Exxon Pegasus Pipeline Oil Spill

Aug 15, 2014

An Arkansas federal judge agreed to certify a class of landowners in a class action against Exxon Mobil Corp. over the 2013 rupture of the Pegasus pipeline that spilled more than 19,000 barrels of crude oil into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas.

In granting the motion for class certification, U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller ruled that the plaintiffs have shown that common issues predominate over individual questions, Law360 reports. He certified a class of real property owners who have an easement on their property for the pipeline and have the pipeline physically crossing their property.

The proposed named plaintiffs — Rudy and Betty Webb and Arnez and Charletha Harper — claimed in their April 2013 suit that the easement contracts required Exxon to maintain, operate and replace the pipeline and that Exxon’s alleged breach had resulted in "the worst oil and tar sands spill in Arkansas history,” according to Law360. They are seeking either to rescind the easements and have the pipeline removed from their properties or to have Exxon to replace the pipeline.

The Webbs and the Harpers own land subject to the easement, but neither couple's property suffered spill-related damage, according to Law360. Exxon challenged the standing of the two couples and the proposed class, pointing out that some individuals, including the Webbs, own property subject to the easement but don't have any pipeline running through their property. In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Miller agreed that the Webbs don't have standing to represent individuals who want to have the pipeline on their property replaced or removed but found that the Harpers, who have pipeline crossing over their property, have standing.

Judge Miller said that most of Exxon's cited case law deals with cases where there weren't valid easement contracts. By contrast, in the pipeline case, the proposed class members all are subject to Exxon's easement, and "their claims depend on the rights as specified in their easement contracts," according to Law360.

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