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Conoco, Inc. v. ONEOK, Inc.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21648
Nos. 95-6095, -6118, 91 F.3d 1405/(10th Cir., 08/01/1996)

The court holds that a natural gas company must indemnify the owner of a ruptured pipeline for 50 percent of the costs it incurred cleaning up surrounding soil and groundwater and paying third-party damages to nearby property owners. Two years after the owner of the ruptured pipeline installed it, the natural gas company hired a contractor to install another pipeline. The natural gas company's pipeline rested on top of the first pipeline where they crossed, damaging it and eventually causing the rupture. Applying Oklahoma law, the court first holds that the district court correctly denied the natural gas company's motion for a directed verdict on the pipeline installer's status as an independent contractor. Both the contract and testimony at trial support the inference that the natural gas company had the right to control, or purported or attempted to control, the manner or method of installing the pipeline. The court next holds that the district court should have instructed the jury under a contribution theory on the pipeline owner's claim for state-ordered remediation costs. The costs were the direct result of a tort committed against state waters, and the pipeline owner presented evidence at trial that the natural gas company was jointly or severally liable for the leak that caused the pollution. The court holds that no fact issues remain for trial, and that the natural gas company is 50 percent liable for the past and future cleanup costs.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Gary W. Davis
Crowe & Dunlevy
1800 Mid-America Tower
20 N. Broadway, Oklahoma City OK 73102
(405) 235-7700

Counsel for Defendant
Peter L. Wheeler
Pierce, Couch, Hendrickson, Baysinger & Green
1109 N. Francis, P.O. Box 26350, Oklahoma City OK 73126
(405) 235-1611

Before SEYMOUR, Chief Judge, PORFILIO and TACHA, Circuit Judges.