National Roundup

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over oil spill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal class-action lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation over a 2013 crude oil spill in central Arkansas has been dismissed by a federal judge, who acknowledged in his ruling that his decision seems unfair.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.

Miller said in a 22-page ruling that he was incorrect in granting class-action status in the case and concluded that the easement contracts Exxon Mobil held with the property owners do not require the company to maintain the pipeline.

Miller said his task was to decide between two options, neither of which seem desirable.

"If Exxon's position prevails, the message to easement grantors is that they are helpless in attempting to avoid a pipeline oil spill, and have no rights until after the oil starts spewing from the pipeline. And, this does not seem fair," Miller wrote.

"On the other hand, if plaintiffs' position prevails, easement grantors would essentially be able to hold pipeline easement holders hostage, threatening them with lawsuits or contract rescission every time the easement grantors possess any notion that the companies are not meeting the easement grantors' personal safety standards. And, this appears to be neither fair nor commercially acceptable."

Miller agreed with Exxon Mobil, which argued that Arkansas law interprets the easement contracts "as the mere granting of a right of way, without any affirmative duty to maintain or repair." He also noted a lack of similarities among class members, which likely would have included thousands of people in Arkansas, Texas, Illinois and Missouri, writing that an oil leak in Illinois "would have no practical effect on a landowner in Texas."

Exxon Mobil spokesman Christian Flathman said in an email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the company is "pleased with the Court's ruling today and believe it properly applied the law to the facts of this case."

Tom Thrash, an attorney for the two couples who filed the lawsuit, told The Associated Press Wednesday that he could appeal.

"We're disappointed in the ruling and we just really haven't had a chance to analyze it," Thrash said. "An appeal is certainly a possibility."

The 850-mile-long Pegasus pipeline runs from Texas to Illinois and was closed shortly after the oil spill. A just more than 200-mile segment of the pipeline in Texas has been restarted.

The pipeline ruptured March 29, 2013, in Mayflower, spilling more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil in the town about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

New Hampshire
Man sued ov­er deadly alleg­ed suicide attempt

NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H. (AP) - A former Fortune 500 executive is facing a wrongful death lawsuit for fatally crashing into a pregnant woman, her fiance and their fetus in what New Hampshire authorities called a failed suicide attempt.

The Valley News reports the estate of Amanda Murphy sued Robert Dellinger on Feb. 20, the day after he pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the deaths of Murphy and Jason Timmons of Wilder, Vermont. Dellinger also pleaded guilty to assault for the death of their fetus.

The lawsuit seeks damages for Dellinger's "wanton, reckless and grossly negligent" conduct. Investigators say Dellinger was trying to kill himself when he drove through the median of Interstate 89 in December 2013.

Dellinger hasn't been served with the suit yet. Dellinger's lawyer said he wasn't attempting suicide, but rather suffering from delirium due to a "toxic regime" of medications.

Mom accused of decapitating her 3-month-old baby

CINCINNATI (AP) - A woman accused of decapitating her 3-month-old daughter had been ordered by a court to stay away from the child, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Deasia Watkins had been forbidden to have contact with the baby after she was hospitalized for psychiatric problems, authorities said.

The baby had been placed in an aunt's custody, and a 5-year-old at the aunt's house with other children to catch a school bus on Monday found the baby's body on a kitchen counter, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said. The aunt apparently was asleep, and the child ran outside for help from a male relative who had dropped them off, Deters said.

Police arriving in response to a 911 call found the baby decapitated and stabbed multiple times with a large chef's knife.

The aunt apparently had let the baby's mother move in with her and the baby about a week earlier, Deters said.

Police found the 20-year-old mother in bed covered with blood, he said, and she was arrested and charged with aggravated murder.

"This is one of the most disturbing cases I have ever seen in my life," Deters said.

The baby's injuries also included a fractured arm, county coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said. The knife used to kill the baby had been placed in the baby's hand, authorities said.

"These are images that will be indelibly marked in my memory," Sammarco said.

Deters said the mother hadn't spoken and remained under guard at a hospital, where she couldn't be reached for comment. The prosecutor said he doesn't anticipate seeking the death penalty in the case.

"It was pretty clear to the officers involved that she is suffering from some serious mental issues," Deters said.

In the 911 call, a woman who apparently was the aunt can be heard crying hysterically and asking for help while repeating, "Oh, my God!"

"My niece killed her baby," she said.

She told the dispatcher that she was asleep when her son, who had come to drop off the children, came in and woke her up, saying the baby was dead.

The son then told the dispatcher that he had seen the baby's body on the kitchen counter but did not know what happened.

"It's a very violent scene," he said.

Local media outlets reported that Watkins was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis after a January incident in which police responded to a report of a woman screaming and that a juvenile court judge this month ordered Hamilton County Job and Family Services to take custody of the baby.

Deters said: "It looks like JFS did their job exactly how they should, but you don't have the resources to be in the house 24/7."

He said the baby's father has not been located.

Published: Thu, Mar 19, 2015


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