If Pipeline Company Wants Your Land, Louisiana Decision Says They Must Pay Your Legal Fees | Environment


Louisiana landowners who lose property because of a prominent estate must be fully compensated, according to the state’s Constitution. Now a 6-1 decision of the State Supreme Court, favoring landowners in a dispute Bayou bridge pipeline under construction on their property, says the compensation includes covering the landowner’s lawyer bill and legal fees.

The ruling forces the company that built the pipeline to pay more money to cover legal fees for three landowners who had previously received a total of about $ 30,000 in damages. The High Court ruling upholds an earlier decision of the Lake Charles 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.

BAYOU SORREL – At the bottom of Louisiana 3066 and the lower Grand River, in the middle of nowhere marshy, lies a hamlet of cypress marshes of oyster shells …

The exact amount of the extra money will be determined by the trial judge, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. But the decision is no less important because it marks the first time that the state’s High Court has ruled that the Constitution allows the award of attorney and litigation fees as an element of fair compensation to landowners in all prominent domain procedures.

In this case, Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC began building the 163-mile pipeline through a 38-acre woodland parish in St. Martin’s Parish without settling with all of the owners involved, including Peter Aaslestad. He filed a lawsuit along with two other people in 2018 to stop construction, forcing the company to initiate major lawsuits in the area.

A Louisiana appeals court on Thursday ordered the company that built the Bayou Bridge pipeline to pay a group of landowners $ 30,000 plus legal fees…

The company eventually obtained the rights to the property, but lower courts found the company had violated and violated the due process of the landowners, awarding $ 10,150 each. The company has asked the Supreme Court to avoid paying attorney fees and other legal fees incurred by landowners.

But the High Court ruled that the Constitution makes it clear that landowners losing their land in eminent domain proceedings can only be “truly whole” if legal fees are part of their compensation.

Aaslestad said he was “delighted”. He and his siblings inherited a stake in the property from his mother. Although he lives in Virginia, both of his parents were from Louisiana, and frequent visits to the state made him feel like a second home.

“I don’t think anyone planned this [Bayou Bridge Pipeline] would lose the fight against the Supreme Court because they have never been challenged before, “said Aaslestad.” It’s a conservative court in a conservative state, and they made a conservative decision, really, protecting rights. of landowners and drawing a line to the Louisiana Constitution in the ruling. “

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In the patchwork of rice paddies and pastures that stretch across southwest Louisiana is a patch that Jay Lewis’s family called theirs for longevity …

Conservationists hope the ruling will encourage more landowners to seek legal help when negotiating property rights with a pipeline company knocking on their door, and encourage more lawyers to take on these cases. .

“A lot of people may not want to take on a case like this because they might not get paid in the end,” said Misha Mitchell, an attorney for Atchafalaya Basinkeeper who assisted in the case. ‘Aaslestad. “There is a deficit of pro bono lawyers working like this.”

Energy Transfer Partners, the main owner of the pipeline, would not comment on the Supreme Court ruling. Spokesman Alexis Daniel said the company is not commenting on the disputes.

In what looked like a battle of David against Goliath, Aaslestad said, “It showed there was hope for the little guy.”

“I don’t think it’s going to stop people from trying to build pipelines and get them through private land,” he continued. “But at least they will know that if they are wrong and if [landowners] retaliate, there will be a higher price tag for non-state companies that violate Louisiana law. “

The Bayou Bridge pipeline is now complete, after years of controversy

Bayou Bridge pipeline land seizure decision appealed to Louisiana 3rd Circuit

How Louisiana politicians are undermining efforts to fight the petrochemical industry

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