A federal judge in Louisiana has approved $48.1 million settlement in a consolidated class action in which a group of property owners and residents accused Texas Brine Co. LLC of causing a potentially dangerous sinkhole two years ago. A hearing was held on the fairness, adequacy and reasonableness of the proposed settlement, which had been reached earlier this year. U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey announced after the hearing that he would grant final approval of the agreement. Seven class members appeared in support of the agreement. A status conference is set for Oct. 23.
The Plaintiffs accused Texas Brine and an Occidental Petroleum Corp. unit of causing the multi-acre sinkhole that emerged in August 2012 in the swamplands of Bayou Corne, La., following the alleged collapse of an underground salt dome cavern excavated by Texas Brine. The sinkhole, 422 feet deep and 372 feet wide, allegedly released a foul diesel odor and created a salt water slurry containing diesel fuel, according to court papers. The class includes an unspecified number of property owners, lessees and residents in the mandatory evacuation area and all business operators and owners either physically in or operating mainly within the area who suffered actual damages allegedly caused by the sinkhole event.
The lead case in the consolidated class action, filed in August 2012, alleged product liability, negligence and Clean Water Act claims against Houston-based industrial brine producer Texas Brine, accusing the company of causing the release of “toxic, noxious and harmful materials.” The sinkhole, which resulted in a declaration of a statewide emergency and a mandatory evacuation of the area, was said to be the result of the failure of a defectively designed salt cavern. Texas Brine had been used as a deposit for naturally occurring radioactive material produced as a byproduct of its salt drilling activities.
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