Last July, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a bid by the oil industry to have earthquake injury lawsuits heard by a state regulatory agency. Instead, the court ruled that these particular cases were subject to the same laws as any other private tort action, and as such fall under the jurisdiction of district courts. A new bill being considered by Colorado’s state legislature may make recovering damages easier for plaintiffs, and could establish precedent for similar legislation here in Oklahoma.
Why this bill is important
Currently, anyone who desires to bring a suit against an oil or gas company for earthquake damage must establish a comprehensive chain of events that conclusively proves that a particular activity caused a particular earthquake. The required investigations and filings can lead to insurmountable fees before a case ever makes it to trial.
The Colorado bill, known as HB16-1310, eliminates the need for extensive investigations and motions by establishing a prima facie case of causation. Instead of plaintiffs proving that a company caused an earthquake, the company must prove that they did not cause an earthquake. It’s a subtle difference, but one that helps to protect victims.
Grist reported, “In its current incarnation, the bill would lower the burden of proof for plaintiffs, who’d have grounds for a case so long as they could demonstrate that oil and gas operations had occurred in the area where the injurious earthquake had occurred. That would make it increasingly difficult for companies to get a case thrown out of court right off the bat.”
The times are a-changin’
The bill has so far been approved by the House and will be considered by the Senate. Whether the bill will become law is not guaranteed, but rest assured; the tide is turning, and this is just the most recent legislative effort that will allow citizens to hold the oil industry accountable for its actions.
Democratic state Rep. Joe Salazar told Colorado’s Daily Sentinel, “This bill is about protecting homeowners and protecting people and it’s about protecting individuals.” At Stipe Law Firm, we fight to protect our fellow Sooners every day. When you need help, we are here for you. Our experienced Oklahoma personal injury attorneys can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Visit our office in McAlester or contact us today for a free consultation.