Jury Awards $73M
For Immediate Release
$73 Million Jury Award Granted in Johnston County Sewage Spill
- 10/01/13 Mill Creek Families Win $73M Verdict – Journal Record (pdf)
- 9/26/13 statement to news media (pdf)
Tishomingo, Oklahoma, September 25, 2013 – On Tuesday, September 24, a Johnston County jury in Johnston County District Court awarded three Mill Creek, Oklahoma families $73 million in damages for 10 million gallons of sewage that was pumped into creeks and streams on their properties in October of 2006. In addition to recreational and aesthetic uses, the families relied upon the creeks and streams for their household water supply.
The case was filed in 2007 on behalf of the Sikes, Converse, and Shirley-Robbins families.
The jury assessed a $60 million punitive damage award against Mehlburger Brawley, Inc., an Oklahoma Engineering Firm, and B3, Inc., an Arkansas construction and excavation company, for wrongful conduct as it related to the sewage discharge.
Lead counsel in the case included Jason Aamodt, of the Environmental Law Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Trae Gray of LandownerFirm.com in Coalgate, Oklahoma.
“The jury voiced a clear message that water is one of the most valuable natural resources and that must be respected,” Gray said. “These clients were incredible. Over the past seven years they went through hell and never wavered. I believe the team approach we took to trying this case was unconventional and it worked. That team consisted of Jason Aamodt, Krystina Phillips, Dallas Strimple, Ryan Ellis and myself. Judge Migliorino, the jury and entire courthouse staff should be thanked for providing this venue for justice in the case,” he said.
One of the plaintiffs, Ava Converse, commented on the verdict.
“We waited seven long years for this and the jury’s award solidified what we, the families, knew all along about how wrong this was,” Converse said. “We, the families and the lawyers, became a family through all of this. We experienced a horrible thing, but through it all we became extremely close. I think the jury respected this and recognized that what happened was very wrong. All along, we wanted others to know that what B3 and Mehlburger Brawley did to the Sikes, Shirley-Robbins and my family was wrong. This has now happened and it means more to me than I can convey with words,” she said.
There were some unusual aspects to the trial, according to Gray.
“In an interesting turn of events, Mehlburger Brawley fired their attorneys three weeks prior to the trial, Gray said. “The case was tried on damages only as liability was determined prior to the jury taking the box. B3 was unwilling to leave Arkansas to appear for trial. A federal bankruptcy court previously denied B3’s request to discharge any judgment with respect to B3 and the families. This being a land damages case, the next step will be to seek approval of our attorney fees from the court. After that, we will try to collect these judgments on behalf of the families,” he said.
LandownerFirm.com was founded in 2006 by Coalgate, Oklahoma natural resources trial lawyer Trae Gray. The firm focuses specifically on natural resources law. The firm’s clients include farmers, ranchers, individuals, small and mid-sized businesses and CEO’s of major corporations who hire the firm to protect their land. The firm’s website is: www.landownerfirm.com.
About Environmental Law Center
The Environmental Law Center, PLLC was founded in 2013 by Krystina Phillips, Dallas Strimple and Jason Aamodt. As a boutique law firm, ELC focuses primarily on environmental law, water law, Indian law, and complex civil litigation for clients from all areas of Oklahoma. ELC is in the process of launching a website at http://www.envlawok.com but currently operates a facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/EnviroLawOK.