Yes. It is not uncommon for plaintiffs to assert a breach of contract claim in an environmental lawsuit. Contractual duties typically arise from lease agreements especially in the oil and gas context. For instance, a breach of contract claim could arise from a breach of a mineral lease agreement between the mineral estate owner and the operator or breach of a surface use agreement between the operator and the surface estate owner.
Such agreements might contain clauses that require the operator to restore the property to pre-drilling conditions following operations. The presence of contamination might be a breach of these agreements as well as a breach of an implied covenant to manage and administer the lease as a reasonably prudent operator. In order to prove a breach of contract, the plaintiff must show that:
- There is a valid and enforceable contract;
- The plaintiff is a proper party to sue for breach of the contract;
- The plaintiff performed, tendered performance of, or was excused from performing its contractual obligations;
- The defendant breached the contact; and
- The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
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