July 18, 2007

Developers: Stay away from the gas line

One lesson that shouldn't need further instruction is to not interfere with gas lines while developing property. In MEMPHIS LIGHT, GAS & WATER DIVISION v. TOMMY CARL STARKEY, the developer graded property with a gas line running through it. Dirt above and around the line was removed such that only a "teepee" of dirt remained along the line. The easement was 75 feet wide, so the developer worked extensively in the easement. The utility company discovered the work, nearly had the developer arrested, and re-installed over 20,000 yards of dirt around the gas line. The Court noted that the duties owed by the utility and the developer to maintain a safe gas line reigned supreme. As such, the utility company was given compensatory damages for the dirt and $11,000 in punitives.