The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal issued a ruling in Pierce v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 13-1108 (La. App. 3 Cir. 3/19/14), which prevents a subsequent property owner or heir from being able to assert a claim for property damage unless the right is reserved specifically or assigned or subrogated in the property acquisition. The case involved plaintiff-landowners who brought claims against numerous insurance and industrial defendants for alleged contamination to their property from oil and gas operations, and from the operation of a dump. The trial court granted exceptions of no right of action, relying on the subsequent purchaser doctrine set forth by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Eagle Pipe & Supply, Inc. v. Amerada Hess Corp., 10-2267, 10-2272, 10-2275, 10-2279, 10-2289 (La. 10/25/11), 79 So.3d 246. The relevant principle in Eagle Pipe is that the right to sue for alleged damage to immovable property is a personal right. For a subsequent landowner, the right can only be asserted if there is a specific assignment of the right in the acquisition documents.
In the Pierce case, the acquisition was a judgment of possession for the plaintiffs from their father’s estate. Because there was no specific assignment, the plaintiffs had no right of action.
For information on this case or other oilfield legacy matters, contact Toni Ellington at 504-599-8500.