In 2002, William Doré, an eminently successful oil and gas man, surprised people throughout his industry when he asked Jones Swanson to represent him against ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies that had contaminated his 18,000 acres of marshland in Cameron Parish.
While researching the case, Jones Swanson turned up documents showing that, as far back as 1946, the state had warned Exxon’s predecessor operating on the property that its waste could kill the marshland as well as the fish in it. Nevertheless, the company continued to dump oilfield waste there—for 27 years.
Could Doré go to the legislature? No. Could he go to the governor? No…That’s why we have three branches of government.” —Tulane University Law Professor Oliver Houck
In spite of the strength of his case, Mr. Doré initially wanted to work with his fellow oilmen, not sue them. So before filing any paperwork in court, Mr. Jones called a meeting with representatives from Exxon and other oil and gas companies that had damaged Mr. Doré’s land.
“We told them we’d shut down the case if they’d clean up Bill’s property,” Mr. Jones said. “They refused, and we filed the lawsuit.”
According to Oliver Houck, an environmental law professor at Tulane University, the courts are “the only recourse that these landowners have. Could Doré go to the legislature? No. Could he go to the governor? No. He went to the oil industry, his buddies, and they turned him down. Where can he go? So, you know, that’s why we have three branches of government.”
Mr. Doré’s faith in the courts worked. In 2006, a jury in Cameron Parish awarded him what was then the largest land restoration judgment in Louisiana history—$57 million.
The verdict was upheld by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2009.