You are staring at your “Good Faith Offer” letter, and you think: “Wow, nothing about this seems to be in ‘good faith’!” So you decide to talk to a lawyer. Where do you start? A great place to start is by asking friends and family. However, watch out for a common trap. Namely, make sure that if your friends or family refer you to a lawyer, that lawyer has experience in dealing with pipeline companies and eminent domain issues in Ohio. The issues are complex and pipeline companies can be extremely difficult to work with, so it is important to have an experienced oil and gas attorney to protect your rights.
No luck getting a good referral from friends and family? You turn to the internet. There you will find a handful of lawyers that advertise that they do pipeline work. How do you pick one? First, meet or talk with as many as you can. We know you don’t have too much time due to the short duration of the “Good Faith Offer”, but it is important to find a good fit. After all, when you are car shopping you typically look at and test drive many different vehicles and that is only a deal in the tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on your particular circumstances, your pipeline lawyer may be working on a deal in the hundred thousands, if not millions, of dollars, so you owe it to yourself to find the right fit.
Second, make sure you ask the right questions, such as: (1) Are they familiar with your area? (2) Do they understand the type of pipeline that is being proposed? (3) How many other landowners do they represent on the proposed pipeline? (4) Do they understand what you think is important about your property? (5) Would they be willing to file a preemptive lawsuit to perhaps avoid the strict timelines in an eminent domain action?
Why are these questions important? For the first couple, a familiarity with the area is important for many reasons. Knowing the land boundaries, uses, facilities, and people that surround your property will assist in negotiations and arguments to get you the fairest deal possible. Understanding the substances to be transported by the pipeline and how the same will be built allow the lawyer to intelligently deal with both pipeline company personnel and their lawyers.
The next two questions go hand in hand. Some pipeline lawyers represent hundreds of landowners on a single pipeline project. This can be a good thing if your property is the average or below average property on the line, as you stand to get more than you would otherwise get alone. However, if your property is special in some way, then you may not be best suited for being a part of such a large class of people. Also, many pipeline lawyers are not litigation attorneys. The thought of litigation involving hundreds of clients is inconceivable. Thus, the lawyers will prefer settlement to litigation – and the pipeline company’s lawyers know this.
What about the last question about preemptive lawsuit filing? What are the other factors in picking a pipeline lawyer? Stick around for Part 5 to see!
About Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA
Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA located in Dublin, Ohio, represents landowners in their efforts to fight against the abusive use of eminent domain by privately owned pipeline companies against Ohio landowners. Whether you do not want a pipeline on your property or simply want fair compensation, we want to help.