There are scores of oilfield contamination cases, coined “legacy lawsuits,” in which landowners claim that their property has been contaminated by historical oil and gas exploration and production operations. Legacy lawsuits are a means for plaintiffs to potentially obtain large jury verdicts to remediate property. Plaintiffs, however, are not required to use their monetary awards towards the remediation of their property. In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature, in response to windfall jury verdicts, lack of remediation obligations on landowner plaintiffs, and the adverse effect of those events on oil and gas operators in the State, enacted Louisiana Revised Statute 30:29 (“Act 312”). Act 312 reflects the Legislature’s concern that the State’s natural resources were not being protected under then-existing laws.
The constitutionality of Act 312 was recently challenged in M.J. Farms, Ltd. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, No. 07-CA-2371. In a unanimous opinion rendered by the Court, Act 312 was held to be not only constitutional but also applicable to legacy cases.