Monday, July 06, 2009

Look Before You Dig

BP Pipelines v. Bockenstedt, no. 08-1681 (Iowa Ct. App. July 2, 2009)

Fitzpatrick owns farmland in Delaware County that he leases to his son. BP owns a gasoline pipeline that runs under the land, and its presence is marked. The Fitzpatricks hired Bockenstedt to install tile in an area at the rear of the farm near some waterways.

You see where this is going, right?

Bockenstedt was operating a tile plow when he punctured BP's pipeline, liberating 8,400 gallons of product.The Bockenstedts were fined by the state for not contacting the state's excavation hotline before they put plow to soil, and they were sued by BP for repairs to their pipeline and the expense of removing the spilled product and environmental remediation.

Bockenstedt, in turn, sued Fitzpatrick, alleging that Fitzpatrick failed to warn them of the pipeline. This claim was dismissed via summary judgment and this appeal followed.

The Court of Appeals found that Fitzpatrick was not liable for Bockenstedt's failure to contact the notification center. In addition, the court determined that Fitzpatrick's direction as to where the tile should be laid established liability under the retained control doctrine.

Simply stated, Iowa Code ch 480.4(1)(a) places the burden of ascertaining the location of underground facilities squarely on the shoulders of the excavator.


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