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|Millions at stake in civil case involving Lake St. John Oil Field|
A jury trial involving dozens of lawyers and one of the biggest oil companies in the world is scheduled to begin Monday in Seventh Judicial District Court in Vidalia.
Among the issues at stake in this civil case are whether several oil, gas and exploration companies, including Chevron, contaminated properties in the Lake St. John Oil Field and whether those companies are liable for clean-up and punitive damages. Millions of dollar are at stake.
Since a lawsuit was filed in 2005, more than 4,500 pages of documents have been filed by the plaintiff and defendants at the Clerk of Court's office. Judge Leo Boothe is presiding and pre-trial motions are set to be heard on Thursday.
Lawyers from all corners of the state, most representing the oil and energy companies, will be in Vidalia for the proceedings.
Jury selection begins Monday. The criminal court docket has been set aside for the next two weeks due to the civil case.
In respect to the number of documents filed, Clerk of Court Clyde Ray Webber says it's the second largest civil case in his 40-plus years in office. The only one larger thus far involved the estate of Richard T. Harris Sr almost 40 years ago.
Tensas Poppodoc, Inc., a company domiciled in Tensas Parish and the owner of property located in the Lake St. John Oil Field, is the plaintiff in the suit against the oil and exploration companies.
The most well-known defendant in the case is Chevron, which was known as the California Company when it began developing the Lake St. John oil and gas field in the 1940s. Other defendants include Devon Energy Production, McGowan Working Partners, Merit Energy Company, Merit Management Partners, Merit Energy Partners, South Operating & Management Company, Spokane Oil & Gas, Sunset Oil & Gas, Denbury Offshore, Diamond South, LSJ Exploration and Oil & ALELSJ.
Tensas Poppodoc, owned by the Ken Killen family, says in its suit that it owns, resides and/or uses property located in the Lake St. John Field which, it alleges, "has been contaminated or otherwise damaged by defendants' oil and gas exploration and production activities."
Specifically, Tensas Poppodoc says it has an interest in "certain oil, gas and mineral leases between plaintiff and defendants, or owns property contaminated by the oil and gas activity conducted or controlled by one or more of the defendants."
The property was contaminated, says the plaintiff, by the "operation or construction of various oil and gas facilities, including but not limited to pits, sumps, pipelines, flow lines, tank batteries, well heads, and measuring facilities."
Tensas Poppodoc alleges the defendants disposed oil field wastes in unlined pits resulting in seepage, contaminating soil and water, and that it used drilling fluids that were toxic and hazardous. It also alleges that materials used by the defendants included mercury, lead based compounds, hydrochloric acid, caustic soda and other chemicals and compounds.
The defendants sought "to conceal and cover up" this fact, according to the plaintiff, which is seeking funds for scientific study, funds to restore its properties to their original state, punitive or exemplary damages, and awards for unjust enrichment damages and mental anguish.
A similar suit is now moving through the Catahoula Parish court system involving property on Louisiana Delta Plantation south of Jonesville.
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