PRAGUE, Okla. — Sandra Ladra was watching television on Nov. 6, 2011, when an earthquake hit.
It was the largest earthquake in recorded Oklahoma history, measuring a 5.6 magnitude.
Ladra said she had rock from her two-story fireplace and chimney fall into her lap, causing injury to her legs and knees.
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The incident near Prague was the first to cause the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to shut down a wastewater disposal well, said OCC spokesman Matt Skinner.
“That was the first time we took action directly related to seismicity,” he said. “There was a highly suspect well that was identified.”
Skinner said the operator of the well was Spess Oil Co.
Ladra is suing Spess Oil Co. and New Dominion LLC for damages.
Jennifer Lin Cooper also is suing the two entities for damages.
Both are represented by Scott Poynter of Little Rock, Ark., Poynter could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuits allege the earthquakes causing damage were triggered by wastewater injection wells operated by the two companies.
In late June, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled homeowners Cooper and Ladra can sue for damages in trial courts. The 7-0 decision comes after Lincoln County District Judge Cynthia Ferrell Ashwood dismissed Ladra’s lawsuit, stating the court didn’t have jurisdiction and the OCC was the proper entity, since it regulated the wells.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision would allow plaintiffs to sue oil and gas companies for earthquake damage if the earthquake is tied to injection well operations by the companies.
According to The New York Times, industry lawyers tried to prevent trial courts from hearing the cases by holding the similar view of Ashwood, that the OCC was the proper venue for such complaints.
In an October court hearing, New Dominion attorney Robert G. Gum warned that juries siding with the plaintiffs would invite economic catastrophe.
“These wells will become economic and legal liability pariahs,” Gum told the court.
Poynter told The Times the industry was trying to prevent the lawsuits from being decided by jurors.
“People have been waiting on this decision,” he told The Times.
Summars is area reporter for the News & Eagle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.