Judge Won’t Dismiss Prague Earthquake Lawsuit

A Lincoln County District Court Judge has refused to dismiss the lawsuit filed against two energy companies accusing them of causing the 5.6 magnitude 2011 earthquake that damaged homes and businesses and injured some residents in Prague.

Judge Cynthia Ferrell Ashwood ruled recently after attorneys for New Dominion LLC of Tulsa and Spess Oil of Cleveland asked to have the suit dismissed in December.

A hearing was held Dec. 11 and Judge Ashwood took the matter under advisement. Sued over operation of their wastewater injection wells, the two energy companies contended the lawsuit filed by Sandra Ladra was “not timely filed, claiming that the two-year statute of limitations had run when the case was filed.”

Judge Ashwood noted the earthquake occurred Nov. 5, 2011 and the lawsuit was filed Aug. 4, 2014.

“The Plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations was tolled until March of 2013 when the Plaintiff learned of the alleged causal connection between the subject earthquake and the Defendants’ actions,” wrote the judge in her decision. “The Court finds that in Oklahoma, the discovery rule allows limitations in tort cases to be tolled until the injured party knows or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known, of the injury or its cause.”

Judge Ashwood had a final statement in her order.

“The Court further finds that whether the discovery rule tolled the two-year statute of limitations in this case is a question of fact. The Defendants’ motions to dismiss are hereby overruled. However, the Defendants will be allowed to re-urge the affirmative defense of statute of limitations in a motion for summary judgment.”

Ladra maintains she suffered serious leg injuries when the fireplace in her home toppled onto her during the Saturday night earthquake. Her attorney had to take the case initially to the Oklahoma Supreme Court when attorneys for New Dominion LLC and Spess Oil argued the suit had to be heard by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and not a district judge in Lincoln County. The Supreme court ruled against the energy companies and returned the case to Lincoln County.


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