In Hogg v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Docket No. 09-CC-2635 (see opinion here), a case handled by Kean Miller attorneys, Leonard L. Kilgore, III and Richard D. McConnell, Jr., the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion for summary judgment based on a prescription (statute of limitations) defense.  In a 5-2 decision, the Louisiana Supreme Court clarified several issues pertinent to prescription in tort cases, in particular to cases involving allegations of environmental contamination of immovable (real) property. The Court addressed the following issues:

1.               What constitutes “actual” and/or “constructive” knowledge of plaintiffs sufficient to commence the running of the applicable prescriptive period for torts under La. Civil Code articles 3492 and 3493;

2.               What constitutes a continuing tort; and

3.               Does the alleged failure to remediate environmental damage constitutes a distinct, continuing tort?

The Court held that letters from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) received by the landowners several years prior to filing suit, advising the landowners of the potential for underground migration of gasoline constituents from a former, leaking underground storage tank (UST) located on nearby property, were sufficient to provide the landowners with knowledge of the potential claim within the meaning of La. Civil Code Article 3493. Article 3493 provides:

“When damage is caused to immoveable property, the one year prescription commences to run from the day the owner of the immoveable acquired, or should have acquired, knowledge of the damages.”

Continue Reading Louisiana Supreme Court Dismisses Environmental Property Damages Case Based on One-Year Prescriptive Period

In the January 20, 2010 Louisiana Register, the Office of Conservation, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources issued a Notice of Intent to amend Statewide Order 29-B to incorporate new rules for the evaluation and remediation of groundwater conditions at exploration and production sites.

The proposed rules can be found at this link.   As part

The United States Department of Justice, in a case of first impression, attempted to hold a landowner responsible for the Coast Guard’s response costs in the clean up of abandoned oilfield equipment in United States of America v. Louisiana Land & Exploration Company, USDC, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 03-3208, Section “L”. Defendant LL&E was the surface owner of the property, which it purchased subject to an existing mineral lease. The lessee had engaged in operations for several years and had installed wells, tanks and other drilling and exploration equipment on the property. Although the operator allegedly ceased operations, LL&E never received any notification that the lease was being terminated.

In 2001, the US Coast Guard reported an oil spill from a storage tank on the property. Because the property allegedly was located in marshlands adjacent to a bayou which drained into the Gulf of Mexico, the US Coast Guard initiated clean up pursuant to the Oil Spill Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA 90″). Upon completion, it sought to recover response costs of approximately $800,000 from the landowner under the theory that the operator had abandoned its equipment and that, pursuant to OPA 90 and La. C.C. art. 493, LL&E became the owner of this equipment when the lease “terminated” and was therefore responsible for all damage it caused.Continue Reading LANDOWNER NOT LIABLE UNDER OPA 90 FOR ABANDONED OILFIELD EQUIPMENT