Oklahoma, as a top producer of oil, is full of large companies that everyday aggressively search for new areas to drill. This is generally a good thing, as the oil and gas industry is a large contributor to our economy. However, Oil companies, if left unchecked, can cause great disturbance to land owners. Therefore, we must preserve our rights regarding our land against the competing interests of the oil industry.
We have previously written about landowner rights on this blog, including your rights to recover for damage to your trees as well as pollution to your land. Travis is a huge advocate for landowners and a stark believer in the common law maxim, “a man’s house is his castle.” The same can be said for a private owner’s land and natural resources.
Private real estate and environmental resources should be protected from pollution and destruction. In this article, we discuss your legal rights when dealing with oil companies that have caused damage to your land in Oklahoma.
If Oil Company causes a Nuisance to your land, you are entitled to compensation in Oklahoma
A private nuisance is when someone disturbs your private, personal, quiet enjoyment of your land, by either interfering with your right use your land or by causing such a disturbance, that you cannot enjoy your land.
You have a right to sue any person, company, or government entity that disrupts your quiet enjoyment of your land. You may sue for two different types of relief: one, is injunctive relief, to get the oil company to stop and refrain from disrupting your land. This is also referred to as equitable relief requiring the defendant to abate the nuisance.
The second type of relief is damages, or financial compensation. The damages to be recovered are damages for loss of use of the land, as well as damages for annoyance, inconvenience, and discomfort.
Lawsuits for Surface Damages in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, land can be divided into the surface and mineral estate. The surface being servient to the mineral estate. Therefore, it is common for certain lands to have two owners, one who owns the surface and one who owns the minerals underneath the earth.
Oklahoma law requires that oil well operators give written notice to the landowner before coming on to drill. They must notify the surface land owner of the proposed location and approximate date of the drilling.
The notice by the driller must be served in the same fashion as a lawsuit. That means that the operator must either personnaly locate and serve the landowner, or they must send by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Once the landowner has been served with notice, the operator must then attempt to enter into good faith negotiations with the landowner to determine the amount of surface damage that will result from the drilling.
At that point a written agreement may be entered into by both parties. The contract should contain an agreement as to the amount of damage to be caused and how much money the operator will pay the landowner for causing the damage.
However, the parties cannot agree on an amount, the landowner may take the operator to court. You are entitled to a jury trial.
Need an Attorney for case involving Landowner Rights?
Travis Charles Smith is passionate about cases involving landowner rights and natural resources. As an attorney, Travis has helped landowners protect their land against corporate trespassers in cases involving boundary disputes, damage to trees, and sewage spills.
If you would like to speak to Travis about your case, send us an email or call (405) 724-8112. You may schedule a free consultation at our Oklahoma City office, or may request that Travis come visit your property (which he often prefers in these cases). We look forward to hearing from you.