Thursday, February 3, 2011

Court Dismisses One Claim and Allows Others to Proceed in Berish v. Southwestern Energy Production Company

Plaintiffs, all residents of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, initiated a tort action against Southwestern Energy Production Company (SEPCO) after hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" fluid and other hazardous chemicals were discharged into the ground  near Plaintiffs' homes.  Plaintiffs' allege insufficient well casing as the cause of the spill.  Defendant SEPCO sought to dismiss the claims for Strict Liability and Damages for Emotional Distress.  The Court allowed the Strict Liability claim to proceed, noting the determination of whether an activity is abnormally dangerous or not is for the court to decide after the discovery process.  With respect to damages for emotional distress, the Court held that under Pennsylvania law, such claims require the plaintiff to suffer an attendant physical injury.  As Plaintiffs' had only alleged physical injury with respect to one Plaintiff, all other claims for emotional distress were dismissed. To read the full decision, please view the Memorandum.

Written by Steven P. Trialonas, Research Fellow
February 2, 2011

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