San Diego – February 23, 2015 – In its annual list of the most impressive litigation victories that had an impact on individuals, industries and the larger society, the Daily Journal named Cooley's work on behalf of Santa Fe Pacific Pipelines ("SFPP") one of five ‘Top Appellate Reversals' of 2014. According to the Daily Journal, "The goal is to honor excellent work by litigators, whether they took a case to trial or prevailed before it got that far." The case was led by one of Cooley's leading trial lawyers, San Diego-based partner Steve Strauss.
In a significant victory for pipeline operator SFPP, which is a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, the Second District Court of Appeal overturned $100 million in damages awarded to Union Pacific Railroad Co. based on an examination of acts of Congress from more than a century earlier. The Court held that Union Pacific may not charge SFPP rent for easements underlying rights-of-way acquired by the Congressional Act, and that Union Pacific has the burden to prove sufficient title to charge SFPP rent. The Court also reversed the award of $20 million in prejudgment interest. On January 21, 2015, the California Supreme Court refused Union Pacific's petition to rehear the ruling.
In an interview with the Daily Journal, Cooley partner Steve Strauss, who argued the appeal for SFPP, noted that, "The decision could affect easements all across the country, as railroads and pipeline operators determine who owns subsurface land and who has the right to charge rent."
In addition to Strauss, Cooley's SFPP litigation team included partner Ray Hartman and associates Summer Wynn, Catherine O'Connor and Shannon Sorrells.
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