Litigating parties may be so invested in the rightness of their cause that they neglect to check the calendar, and the relevant stature of limitations. On May 19, the Texas Supreme Court decided the case of Town of DISH, et al., v. Atmos Energy Corp., et al. Reversing the Seventh Court of Appeals, sitting in Amarillo, TX, the Court reinstated the summary judgment ruling of the trial court which dismissed the Town of DISH’s and some of its residents’ complaint regarding the operations of the energy companies located just outside the Town of DISH and within a half-mile of the residents’ properties as time-barred. The Court recognized that
Claims for nuisance “normally do not accrue when a potential source is under construction,” but “once operations begin and interference occurs, limitations runs against a nuisance claim just as any other.” Trespass claims are no different. And although completion of construction is not dispositive of an accrual date, it is a logical starting point, as “plaintiffs will usually know of unreasonable discomfort or annoyance promptly.”
(Internal citations omitted).
The plaintiffs generally complained in 2006 that the operation of three natural gas compressor stations and a nearby metering station generated intolerable odors and noise, and they alleged that a nuisance and a trespass was taking place. However, they did not file their civil complaint until February 28, 2011. They argued that “they suffered no legal injury until the Ponder station was “completely finished” in the summer of 2009 when Enterprise’s metering station came online.
The trial court held that these complaints were untimely, as they were not filed within two years of the accrual of their claims, as required by governing statute of limitations. The Seventh Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that the energy companies failed to prove as a matter of law that the residents’ claims accrued before February 28, 2009.
However, the Texas Supreme Court, noting from the record that the last compressor station came on line in August 2008, and there were town meetings convened to address these problems as early as 2006, held that the limitations period began to run at least as late as 2008 and thus are barred.