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$3 million verdict for 'first fracking trial'

A jury awarded $3 million to a Texas family whose property was destroyed by fracking.
An oil drill in Wise County, Texas.
An oil drill in Wise County, Texas.

A Texas family has won a $2.925 million judgment against an energy corporation over damage to health and property caused by fracking operations.

Bob and Lisa Parr sued Aruba Petroleum in 2011 for damages to their 40-acre ranch and for a host of health problems they and their daughter Emma have suffered from. Aruba Petroleum operate 22 wells within two miles of the Parr’s property.

“They’re vindicated,” attorney David Matthews said in a blog post on his firm's site. “I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore.' It takes guts to say, ‘I’m going to stand here and protect my family from an invasion of our right to enjoy our property.’ It’s not easy to go through a lawsuit and have your personal life uncovered and exposed to the extent this family went through.”

Attorneys for the Parrs said this suit was the first fracking trial in the United States. Hydraulic fracking is a process used to extract natural gas from underground. It pumps millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals into well drilled deep into shale deposits and pushes natural gas out through cracks that form. At least 15 million people lived within a mile of a well drilled since 2000.

During the trial, Robert Parr testified that his family could no longer drink the water from their well and that his daughter sometimes woke up covered in blood thanks to debilitating nose bleeds.

While this is not the first lawsuit against an energy company for damages related to fracking, it is common for plaintiffs to settle. Those settlements sometimes include strict gag orders, such as one 2013 settlement that barred two young children from talking about fracking for their entire lives.

Aruba Petroleum plans to appeal the jury’s decision. At the trial, the company’s lawyers argued that since there are dozens of other drilling operations in the area, it was not possible to prove that it was its wells that caused harm to the Parr family. Most of the other companies sued by the Parrs have settled.