Q: My Cow Died Due to Oil Company Negligence
My cow got tangled in some oilfield equipment and died. Is the oil company liable for my lost cow, even if I don't have farm insurance?
I own a farm in Texas and a few weeks ago, one of my cows got loose. I found her later that night tangled up in some equipment that's located on my property as a result of an agreement with the oil company, and she later died from her injuries. Is the oil company liable for the loss of my cow, since it was their equipment that caused her death?
A: The answer to this can depend on a few factors. The law, as it pertains to oil and gas protection rights, varies from state to state. Also, liability may be determined based on the wording of your contract with the oil company that is currently operating on your land.
When you permitted the oil company to drill on your property, you agreed to, and signed, a written lease/contract. In most cases, property owners will negotiate compensation, which could include things like the building of new fencing, the addition of a pond on their property, and other upgrades, in addition to a portion of the profits (if mineral rights are owned) and payments for the use of the land.
Also often written into this contract are obligations by the property owner to keep pets and livestock away from the drilling equipment. This is why new fencing is often asked for by property owners. In many situations like this, if animals are injured or killed by oilfield equipment, the animals’ owners are often found to be responsible and the oil company is therefore not held liable.