In a new WWL series, “Tainted Legacy,” plaintiffs’ lawyers fail to explain why decades of litigation have resulted in many million-dollar payouts but few environmental clean ups in Louisiana.
The first installment of a six-part investigative series that attempts to shine a light on the ongoing legal battle over legacy lawsuits aired on the New Orleans station last night. “Legacy lawsuits” are environmental claims that have been filed by the hundreds in recent years, frequently by aggressive trial lawyers on behalf of certain landowners. They target oil and gas companies for production activities that took place decades and sometimes a century ago. In response to the claims, companies have paid out millions of dollars to landowners and their lawyers, but few clean ups have followed as a result. To date only 12 of 137 properties with state-verified contamination have actually been cleaned up to state standards. When asked by WWL reporter David Hammer to explain the discrepancy, mega-legacy lawsuit lawyer Gladstone Jones had little to say:
David Hammer: “Do you have any mixed feelings about the large amounts of money that oil companies have paid to landowners and to your firm and other firms that represent these land owners while so few of the properties have been cleaned up?” Gladstone Jones: “It does concern me. That should be not the way that it works. These properties should be cleaned up, and I’ve been very consistent about that since the first legislation came up in 2006.”
Landowners across Louisiana have filed more than 360 legacy suits against oil companies since the 1990s. Data compiled by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources showed 78 percent of those cases presented no evidence of actual damages according to state evidence standards. ###