Judge dismisses lawsuit against 5 who pipeline says interfered with project
BISMARCK—A federal judge dismissed the civil suit filed by Dakota Access against the Standing Rock tribal chairman and four other defendants.
In an order filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said the company failed to show that the federal court had jurisdiction over the case. Hovland said, however, the company can pursue damages in state court.
Hovland dismissed the claims against tribal chairman Dave Archambault, Dana Yellow Fat, Valerie Wolf Necklace, Clifton Holllow and Jonathan Edwards. There is still a lawsuit against Donald Strickland and Aaron Neyer, who did not file motions to dismiss.
The company claimed the seven defendants interfered with pipeline work through their actions in the protest, threatening the safety of workers and costing the company business to the tune of more than $75,000 a day when work stopped.
But the company didn't show that the alleged losses caused by each defendant exceeded $75,000, which is required for a lawsuit to be valid in federal court, Hovland decided.
"Dakota Access cannot aggregate the alleged harm from all pipeline protesters in calculating the value of an injunction against individuals acting independently," Hovland wrote.
Tim Purdon, of Robins Kaplan, who represented Archambault and Yellow Fat, said he thought the decision was appropriate.
"I don't think the jurisdiction was a close call," he said.
Bearing that in mind, Purdon commented that the pipeline company took advantage of the court system to get a temporary restraining order against his clients, which was in place for several weeks, and prohibited them from "unlawfully interfering" with pipeline construction. Purdon said this may have impeded their First Amendment rights.
Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, declined to comment.
In court documents, the company argued that the court should consider the total harm done to the company aggregated among the defendants.
"The value of the harm cannot be divided or apportioned to each individual defendant or protester who contributed to the harm," attorney Lawrence Bender wrote on behalf of Dakota Access. "The actions of any single individual may be sufficient to prevent Dakota Access from engaging in construction and, therefore, the entire value of the injunction is at stake as against each individual defendant."