Stillwater News Press

February 21, 2013

Judge rules against consolidating lawsuits

By Russell Hixson
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Judge Stephen Kistler ruled against consolidating lawsuits that construction activity on a pipeline caused a destructive wildfire in rural Glencoe.

Global Pipeline Construction LLC, IPS Engineering and Parnon Gathering are being sued by dozens of Payne County residents and landowners who lost homes and property in a wildfire they allege started from negligent pipeline construction during hot, dry and windy conditions.

The Aug. 4, 2012, fire destroyed 2,000 acres and 17 homes.

The four lawsuits considered for consolidation involve more than 70 plaintiffs.

Attorney’s for Global and Parnon argued that consolidation of four of the cases would be beneficial to all the parties. The petition stated the four actions have common questions of law and fact and that consolidation will promote judicial economy and help conserve parties’ resources. Without consolidation, the defendants argued, witnesses would have to do separate depositions for each case, defendants would have to respond to four sets of discovery and prepare for four jury trials.

Attorneys for several of the plaintiffs argued strongly against consolidation, saying it would cause confusion as some cases are pursing different legal strategies and damages.

A petition in response to Global’s request for consolidation explains there are also three theories for how the fire started: Spark created by grinding done on the Parnon pipeline by Global, the catalytic converter in an IPS truck and spark or slag created by welding done on the Parnon pipeline by Global.

The petition notes that because of the third theory, Global has filed a cross-claim against IPS.

During arguments, attorneys against consolidation said they expect more cases to be filed in the coming months, meaning consolidation would force parties seeking speedy trials to possibly wait years for a jury trial.

After hearing arguments by the attorneys, Kistler ruled against consolidation.