Both Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Kinder Morgan Inc. face federal class action lawsuits alleging unlawful use of the former’s longstanding railroad easement. Union Pacific built a petroleum pipeline underneath their tracks in the 1950s that, in recent years, they rented out to oil and gas giant Kinder Morgan. That pipeline may be on legally dubious ground because, as Law360 explained, “recent court rulings have found landowners with properties abutting rail tracks hold the underlying fee interests in the land below the tracks,” giving rise to class action suits in Arizona and California.
Brandee Caswell, Faegre Baker Daniels partner and head of the real estate litigation practice, told Law360 that railroad companies everywhere may soon face similar lawsuits.
“This would apply to every railroad out there and this is a very slippery slope,” Caswell said. “If you’re another railroad company that hasn’t been named to one of these, you’re doing some due diligence…about what the potential liability might be.”