Hollowich family’s lawsuit claims gas driller lied about property value

Family’s lawsuit claims gas driller lied about property value by Don Hopey, November 15, 2011, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Hallowich family, which settled its lawsuit alleging that Marcellus Shale drilling damaged the family’s health and property value, has filed another suit claiming Range Resources has violated the confidential settlement agreement by falsely stating it paid $550,000 for the 10-acre property in Hickory, Washington County. The actual price, according to the emergency petition filed Monday in Washington County Common Pleas Court, was $100.

The petition states that Range Resources intentionally and fraudulently filed a Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value with the state Department of Revenue tax bureau to publicly embarrass Stephanie and Chris Hallowich, inflate the family’s tax obligations on the sale of their home and “garner a public relations windfall” because the company had paid more than the full market, appraised value of the property. “We do believe they (Range Resources) breached the confidentiality of the settlement agreement and more importantly they filed a document stating my clients received ‘actual cash considerations’ for their house of $550,000,” said Peter Villari, the Hallowich’s attorney. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mr. Villari said the filing by Range and a subsequent newspaper article reporting it, “cast my clients in a poor light as if they had some sort of windfall in this case.” Matt Pitzarella, a Range spokesman, wrote in response to a request for comment: “We have a legal obligation to accurately record property transactions to ensure we pay the two-percent tax to the school district, county and Commonwealth.”

[Refer also to: Confidentiality Agreements, The Problem: Confidentiality agreements in lawsuit settlements can be harmful, even deadly, to the public ]

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