Range Resources wants early release of evidence in case claiming contamination

October 31, 2012

Attorneys for Range Resources and 16 other defendants named in a lawsuit filed by three Amwell Township families are asking the court to order the plaintiffs to release specific evidence regarding their alleged wrongdoings.“We’re asking them to put up or shut up,” said Range Resources’ attorney Dennis St. J. Mulvihill, who led the conference before Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery, asking her to issue a case management order forcing the plaintiffs to come forward with a basic outline of their case and the evidence they used in the filing of the lawsuit.In May, attorneys John and Kendra Smith filed the 182-page lawsuit on behalf of Stacey, Harley and Paige Haney; Beth, John and Ashley Voyles; and Loren and Grace Kiskadden.The lawsuit claims Range knew its shale gas development operation on the Yeager farm property on McAdams Road in Amwell Township had contaminated the groundwater with chemicals from a leaking drilling waste pit and a 3 million-gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback impoundment as early as November 2010. In addition to Range, the lawsuit includes 12 of the drilling company’s subcontractors or suppliers, two individuals and the two water-testing laboratories that reported no contamination.The three families, who live below the drilling site, claim they suffer a multitude of health problems, including nosebleeds, headaches and dizziness, skin rashes, stomachaches, ear infections, nausea, numbness in extremities, loss of sense of smell and bone pain.But, according to Mulvihill, no specific evidence has been provided in the lawsuit as to any intentional wrongdoing by any of the defendants or that the alleged illnesses are directly tied to the drilling site.“Despite all of the allegations, the lawsuit does not establish a clear chain of exposure, injury and causation,” said Bruce Rende, another Range attorney, adding the defense is basically asking the court to dictate when the plaintiffs should admit expert information backing up their claims.The attorneys also argued with so many defendants and the complexity of the case that includes 75 counts, it could linger for some time and burden the court with insignificant filings and responses.The Smiths, however, contend Range is trying to force them to prematurely reveal their evidence and get their experts to issue opinions before all information is available. Specifically, Kendra Smith referred to testing results she claims have not been made available by Range and results that were not included in reports from the state Department of Environmental Resources.“Our experts will look at the totality of the case,” she said.Mulvihill responded by telling the judge the defendants are just asking the plaintiffs to present a prima facia case against them so that they can proceed in building a defense.Emery said she will decide on the request within the next three weeks.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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