The original allegation in 2009 was that Cabot Oil Gas contaminated their well water supplies with methane while the company was drilling Marcellus Shale. While Cabot already settled with the other 40 plaintiffs in 2012, the two couples who rejected the offer awaited their chance to present their case. It took six years for the two Dimock Township couples to finally get their day in court against Cabot Oil & Gas, and when their time came, the federal judge blocked a large portion of their evidence.
Raymond and Victoria Hubert and Nolen Scott Ely and his wife, Monica Marta-Ely, are the four Dimock Township residents who would not settle with Cabot in 2012. Cabot has steadfastly denied any claims that they contaminated the wells in Dimock Township. In fact, the company contends that evidence will show that they met or exceeded standards for drilling and were not the source of contamination. The four plaintiffs sought damages on multiple accounts, including breach of contract, private fraud, negligence, and personal injury, with a New York attorney, Leslie Lewis representing the Elys.
In August of 2015, all pre-trial evidence was supposed to have been concluded. However, five months later, on January 12, 2016, Attorney Lewis filed a pre-trial brief listing 24 exhibits she intended to present at the trial. Then, on February 1, 2016, Lewis filed another exhibit list containing 351 exhibits, 174 of which had never been presented before. Anyone familiar with law knows that the reason for evidence revelation prior to trial is to ensure that defendants are not “ambushed by a trial-by-surprise,” which is what U.S. District Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson said he had a duty to protect Cabot from.
Even though Judge Carlson knew that the Elys and Huberts would experience a significant impact to their side of the lawsuit, he felt he did not have any choice but to toss out the majority of evidence that Lewis presented. He threw out more than 300 exhibits because they were not presented to the attorneys for the defendant until merely a few weeks prior to trial, which was scheduled to begin February 22, 2016. However, in all fairness, Judge Carlson also ruled that the jurors would be advised of the state law which states that if a water supply is within 1,000 feet of a gas or oil well and pollution occurs within six months of the drilling project, the drillers are presumed to be responsible for the contamination.
Any piece of evidence that is thrown out by a judge could be detrimental to a case. That is why it is crucial to contact a Pennsylvania attorney who will be invested in your case and ensure that all evidence is submitted at pre-trial. If you are considering pursuing compensation for damages or injury in a trial for negligence or personal injury, contact Solnick & Associates, LLC today at (877) 415-6495 for a free case evaluation.
(image courtesy of Bernard Gagnon)