Tarrant County jury sides with family, calls gas well site a nuisance

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 10:27 PM

Updated Friday, May 23 at 10:27 PM

FORT WORTH -- Sam and Jane Crowder have lived in the same home for 41 years of their 49-year marriage. It's on Madrid Lane, in southwest Fort Worth.

Their backyard is an oasis, with a pond and landscaping. But the neighbor that moved in just beyond the backyard is what they call a nuisance.

"It's an ever-present annoyance," Sam said. "This does not belong by houses."

A jury called it a nuisance, too. A gas-drilling site is approximately 165 feet from the Crowder's back fence.

The Crowders sued over, among other things, the dust, noise, and smell they say came from the site. The trial ended this week, and the jury sided with them, agreeing that Chesapeake Energy - which operates the site - created a nuisance and prevented the Crowders from enjoying their property.

"It's hard to put into words," Sam said, choking up a bit. "I think now people will pay attention and listen to us, because no one ever listened before."

The jury awarded the Crowders $20,000, which is much less than the $108,000 they asked for. But overall, the verdict is more than they hoped for.

"Somebody listened to us, finally," Jane said, "and something was done."

"We went to the zoning board, we went to city council -- it made no difference," Sam added. "I don't think anybody really ever listened. [...] Then they make you feel like a trouble maker."

Chesapeake told the Star-Telegram they would not comment on the verdict, which only applies to past damages.  It does not prevent the well from operating in the future.

But for the Crowders, "it's a huge relief," said Sam with a laugh. "It's been tense. It was a struggle. But we stuck it out."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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