Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Andrews v. Columbia Gas

Oct 10: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, Case No. 07-3632. The case involved a property agreement initiated in 1947 with previous owners to allow an Ohio gas company to construct and maintain gas pipelines. Until 2004, Columbia Gas (current owner) made no efforts to clear a right of way around its pipelines on plaintiffs’ property. In June 2004, a work crew informed Donald Andrews that the location of the pipeline required them to remove a stand of the pine trees on his property and Columbia Gas claimed the right to remove the trees and to maintain a right of way totaling approximately eighty feet. In April 2005 the company informed plaintiff that the company planned to enter the property and remove the trees.

Plaintiffs filed suit in Licking County Court and the company removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio based on diversity jurisdiction. After trial, the magistrate judge entered judgment in favor of Columbia Gas. Plaintiffs appealed making four arguments: (1) that the magistrate judge incorrectly construed the right of way agreement as granting Columbia Gas a fifty-foot easement to operate and maintain each of its pipelines on plaintiffs’ property; (2) that the doctrines of laches, estoppel, and waiver, as well as the statute of limitations, precluded Columbia Gas from clearing the right of way forty years after the trees were planted; (3) that they are entitled to damages for the removed trees; and (4) challenging the district court’s denial of their motion for additional time to serve a jury demand. After review of all plaintiff claims, the Appeals court affirmed the decision of the district court.

Access the complete opinion (click here).