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|$1 million awarded landowner|
A 12-member Concordia Parish jury found that Chevron violated a surface lease agreement causing damage to Tensas Poppodoc's property in the Lake St. John Oilfield but awarded the company only $1 million of the $126 million it sought.
That verdict was issued at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday night and while it may have been a victory for the plaintiff, it is considered a shallow one. In fact, some court observers say Chevron may count the jury's verdict as a win.
Attorneys for Tensas Poppodoc appeared stunned at the jury's decision, which came after four hours of deliberation including one review of exhibits.
The plaintiff attorneys said the money sought was needed to clean up property which it says was contaminated by Chevron and other oil companies. But Chevron's attorneys countered that the suit was frivolous, that the oil companies had followed all state guidelines and that the suit was generated by lawyers looking "to clean up in court."
Judge Leo Boothe presided in the 11-day civil trial, the longest civil case he has heard since being on the bench and one of the longest civil trials in the history of the Seventh Judicial District Court. The case involved a number of highly-technical issues and included testimony from numerous expert witnesses who addressed a wide range of environmental and scientific matters.
The plaintiff's attorneys called six witnesses, three in rebuttal, while the defendants called 12 witnesses.
After closing arguments and instruction by Boothe on Tuesday afternoon, the jury retired to deliberate at 5:50 p.m. A verdict was reached four hours later.
Chevron developed the Lake St. John field in the 1940s. The company was known as the California Company at the time.
Tensas Poppodoc, domiciled in Tensas Parish, is owned by Ken Killen Jr. The company owns 364 acres of the 14,000-acre Lake St. John oil field.
In addition to Chevron, other defendants included McGowan Working Partners, Inc., Spokane Oil & Gas LLC, Sunset Oil & Gas LLC, Devon, Denbury Onshore LLC, LSJ Exploration, LLC, Oil & Ale LSJ, LLC and Merit.
The jury found that neither Chevron nor Devon showed a wanton or reckless disregard for the public safety in the storage, handling or transportation of a hazardous or toxic substance or substances between Sept. 3, 1984 and April 16, 1996.
No punitive damages were awarded.
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