Therapist: “We’re here today in group to bring closure to the traumatic events of Crosstex North Texas Pipeline L.P. v. Gardiner. Each side claims mistreatment by his adversary and by one component or another of the civil justice system. Rancher/property owner Mr. Gardiner, you appear to be the more unhappy party, let’s start with you. Your glorious trial victory ended in soul-crushing defeat. What happened?”
Gardiner: “I own 95 acres in a rural part of Denton County, Texas. I reluctantly gave Crosstex an easement for their 24-inch transmission line when they threatened the confiscatory and intimidating power of emiment domain. I thought it would stop there, but it didn’t. I run cattle and horses on the property. The environment was peaceful and quiet, with your usual country sounds. We could hear coyotes howling, and birds.
Therapist: “Thank you. Crosstex, how does that make you feel?”
Crosstex: “Confiscatory, my %$#. We paid him five times the value we should have for that easement. What’s a company to do? No matter how carefully we place a facility and then work to alleviate concerns of our neighbors, we get sued in a bad venue. We can’t make everybody happy, especially a local jury.
“We could transport more gas if we had compression along the line. Without it, Barnett Shale producers would have stranded wells with no way to get their gas to market. We built a sixteen million dollar compressor station on 19 acres we purchased across the road from the Gardiners. We chose that area because it was rural and there were no houses anywhere around. Besides Gardiner’s ranch there were only flea markets, mobile homes, welding shops and more pasture. We located the station in a place that was far away as it could be from people it might bother.
“Here’s what that rabble did to us – a verdict for two million dollars! In a reflective moment we appealed to our ‘higher power’, which was in Fort Worth. But I digress.”
Therapist: “Crosstex, please look at Mr. Gardiner when you speak, not at me. And it isn’t helpful to wink and smile at the court as if they were your new best friend.
Crosstex: “We installed hospital grade mufflers. When Mr. Gardiner complained, we hired a consultant and spent thousands of dollars on sound mitigation. We did everything he told us we needed to do. At one test the sound level was a mere 37 decibels. I’m sorry our employee made that report saying “NOISE VERY LOUD”. She really shouldn’t have done that. But we built a roof, walls on three sides, and a sound barrier at the road.”
Gardiner: “Yes, but the wall wasn’t on my side. There were four diesel motors bigger than a mobile home. The noise sounded like a locomotive, one neighbor couldn’t use her yard to entertain outside, you had to scream to be heard when the compressors were running, my son couldn’t hear my directions when we rode horses, the cattle couldn’t hear when I honked the truck horn for dinner time. It sounded like an air impact wrench that takes off lug bolts! I am a person of ordinary sensibilities and the station caused unreasonable discomfort and annoyance to me.
Crosstex: “You’re saying your cattle are too stupid to know when to eat? Give me a break! And you were holding the property for sale or development. You didn’t care about those country sounds.”
Therapist: “That’s a clever use of sarcasm, Crosstex, but please consider whether it’s helpful. Your Honors, thank you for wearing your robes to the session as a reminder of your authority.
The Court of Appeal: “I don’t even know why we agreed to be here. We aren’t from Denton County, and we are exposed to the electorate only once every six years. Here’s some law for you, Mr. Gardiner: We found that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the verdict that the operator committed acts constituting negligent nuisance. Our painstaking recitation of all the ugly and highly-contested facts supports this conclusion. There was a dissent but we didn’t invite her.
“If you want to know how Texas law defines nuisance, nuisance per se and nuisance in fact, please refer to page 4 and footnote 3 in our opinion. See footnote 4 for a lesson on the elements of a negligence cause of action. That’s where the trial judge got it wrong.”
Crosstex: “We won. Hooray! Go ahead and appeal to the Supreme Court. You know what that bunch thinks about plaintiffs and big judgments. If you don’t like it, vote Democrat next time.”
Therapist: “Mr. Crosstex, I wish you hadn’t said it quite like that. Mr. Gardiner, is that a burdizzo you just pulled from your briefcase?
Grosstex: “Get away from me with that thing!” (Screams, … scuffle ensues).
Therapist: “Oh my God! This session is over.”