See ya Later, Gator – CHRISTMAS v. EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION | Episode 31
In this episode, Cassie, Ali, and Danielle discuss the real estate case of Tom and Consandra Christmas v. Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Tom and Cosandra moved into a house that ended up being next to an alligator-infested, waste-disposal site owned by Exxon.
They sued Exxon, claiming the alligator infestation was a nuisance.
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ABOUT US -🎙 Agents Unfiltered SEASON 2 is about a deep dive into some wild real estate cases and give our take! Get ready for some relatable and relevant information about “The Do’s, the Don’ts & the What The Fuck’s of Real Estate.”
Hey everyone, and welcome to Agents Unfiltered, where we talk about the do’s, the don’ts, and the what the fucks of real estate. I’m Ali. This is Danielle. And I’m Cassie Day. Join the three of us every week as we deep dive into some wild real estate cases and give our take. We are not attorneys and want to make it clear that this podcast or any linked materials should not be construed as legal advice, nor is this information a substitute for professional expertise.
We are not lawyers, financial advisors, doctors, or mortgage lenders, but we are your new BFFs.
Cassie: All right. So I like to find weird cases. This one doesn’t deal with realtors getting sued or anything, but I found it to be exciting and interesting. This is Tom and Consandra Christmas versus The Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Danielle: I’m already intrigued.
Ali: In my head, I’m like a gas leak. I’m trying to figure it out.
Cassie: No, not a gas leak. This is real estate related. Something else is on the land…
Ali: Oh boy.
Cassie: On December 3rd, 2003, Tom and Consandra purchased 35 acres of land in Mississippi. They were looking for quiet land to build a nice home that their grandkids could visit, that they could fish on, just a nice, quiet, serene property. Their agent warned them that one of his horses had been injured on this land by an alligator and thought that that was worth noting. They purchased the land.
Danielle: I would never wanna buy land with alligators anywhere.
Cassie: They saw some alligators on the property between 2003 and 2007, but never anything extreme. They did not know that the neighboring property was an alligator infested waste disposal site owned by Exxon.
Danielle: Wait, stop it.
Ali: Alligators can just live through anything? They can live in a wasteland?
Cassie: They did not know that they neighbored this Exxon site until 2007 when one of his dogs got loose and he went to go find him on the property and came across this land covered in so many alligators. An abundance of alligators. They didn’t really want an alligator infestation as their neighbor so they sued Exxon on August 11th, 2008, alleging the alligator infestation was a nuisance and basically like they were not addressing that there was this alligator infestation on their property.
Ali: Is that like mice up here? Like alligators are an infestation?
Danielle: But I am also like, what wasteland? Like, of what? What does Exxon have that’s like attracting alligators?
Cassie: They had a property that they had been using that they abandoned.
Danielle: Oh. And so alligators were just there.
Cassie: So they hadn’t been on the property in years and alligators had overtaken.
Danielle: They’re wild animals too. They deserve to live.
Cassie: They weren’t seeking for Exxon to remedy the alligator issue, they were just seeking monetary damages.
Danielle: For what? What damage?
Cassie: That there was this nuisance of alligators living next to them.
Danielle: But they haven’t been damaged.
Cassie: No, but you know, they could be by the alligators.
Danielle: But you can’t sue if you’re not damaged.
Ali: We’re all a little damaged.
Cassie: They are suing because of nuisance. There’s verbiage for that. So it says a private nuisance is a non-trespassory invasion of another’s interest in the use and enjoyment of his property. One landowner may not use his land so as to unreasonably annoy, inconvenience or harm others. One is subject to liability for a private nuisance if, but only if, his conduct is a legal cause of an invasion of another interest in the private use and enjoyment of their land.
Danielle: I totally get that, but here’s my question. I know there’s more to this story, but hypothetically, because this could be in any property, not with alligators, but something else, maybe some other place in the country, but if they’re not encroaching on your property and it’s not hindering your enjoyment of your property unless it’s like obscenely noisy. I mean, I wouldn’t want that property. I get it, but if they’re over there doing their own thing…
Ali: Especially, it’s not like they’re pets. It’s a wild animal. If it was like they had pet alligators and they kept getting onto your property, they’re doing the same things, like that’s your responsibility because you have ownership of them, but they’re just wild animals on your property.
Danielle: They’re not even on their properties, like they just discovered ’em on the other property. So it means he went onto the other property and discovered them.
Cassie: Yeah, because he was on the other property when he saw and they had seen some alligators, like I said, between 2003 and 2007 before they made this realization, but never anything that was an abnormal number of alligators to see in Mississippi on land.
Danielle: I’m curious where this goes because this is an interesting case. I don’t understand the basis yet.
Originally it was dismisses because it had passed the statue of limitations
Cassie: Originally. The court dismissed it immediately because it was past the statute of limitations for how long they had owned the land. So if there had been an alligator infestation and there was this nuisance issue, it would have been serious enough to have done sooner. So it pass the statute of limitations for them to go after it. And obviously if they’re wild alligators like they’re just living out there. So they went back and said, because basically like it was this question of can wild alligators be considered a nuisance because they’re wild, but their argument was, well, what if these alligators were put here and weren’t just living here naturally.
They had someone who’d worked for the company when it was open that was quoted as saying, “during my employment at the waste site, I heard and took part in numerous conversations with Exxon employees regarding the alligators that populated the Exxon Waste site. It was stated repeatedly by Exxon employees that the alligators had been brought up from Louisiana and introduced to the Exxon waste site.”
Danielle: Oh, that’s a turn.
Cassie: So, these may not be Mississippi alligators, they could be those Louisiana alligators.
Ali: Why would you do that?
Cassie: I have no idea. To keep people off of the waste site, were they doing things they shouldn’t be doing? I don’t know.
Ali: I mean, why hire and pay for security when you could just get alligators.
Danielle: Why don’t you just freaking fence it off? Like, I also don’t understand.
Cassie: They take it to the appellate court and the appellate court finds in favor of the Christmases and reverses, but then it goes back to the regular court because the question that it really hinges on is whether or not a private person can be held liable for the act of a wild animal.
Can a person be held liable for the act of a wild animal?
Ali: No, no cougars, bears, all that kind of stuff out here. How does that make any sense?
Cassie: And on top of that, alligators are a protected species in Mississippi, so they can’t eradicate the alligators because they’re a protected species. So what does that mean for them? You know, they can’t get rid of them.
Danielle: I feel like that means you fence your property off and call it good.
Cassie: Yes. So at the final hearing on this, they reversed the appellate court’s statement and affirmed the original circuit court in favor of Exxon, that there was no standing.
Danielle: That makes sense.
Ali: Also, I’m sorry, but you didn’t even want ’em to remedy it. You just wanted money for it. Like that’s not actually gonna protect you.
Cassie: That’s what got me when I was reading it. They know it’s foul play, they don’t really care.
Danielle: It’d be one thing if they were like, we are suing for you to put a fence up or give us money for a fence because we wanna make sure that alligators don’t go on our property. That I could see like financial damages or something.
Cassie: Yeah. They didn’t ask for it to be remedied. It wasn’t like my grandchild was dragged off by one of the alligators from this, you know, or my dog was injured or nothing. No one was hurt. They were just mad that they didn’t know that they were next to this waste removal site that was abandoned. Which, I get being mad about that and I thought it was interesting that they didn’t go after the seller.
Danielle: That goes back to what we talked about a few weeks ago.
Cassie: Did they disclose that they were next to this?
Danielle: But they don’t have to. Unless you’re in a state, I guess that makes you, but like for most states, you don’t. Remember we had that other case, you don’t have to disclose what is next door to you.
Cassie: I just thought it was so interesting and I don’t even know what their end game was other than I’m just looking to make some extra money, because they didn’t ask for any sort of remedy to the situation.
Danielle: That’s what it seems like looking for a solution. I wonder if they would’ve done the same thing if it wasn’t a big company. If it was just owned by some other owner, like a local person, would they have sued? Or they’re like, oh, it’s Exxon. Let’s see what we can get.
Cassie: Because they did fight it all the way up to the appellate court.
Danielle: Also, the thing I think about with stuff like this where people take cases to court like this over things I feel like to most of us, they’re like, why are you doing this? The cost just to go to the first trial to then lose.
Cassie: And then go after it again. It’s crazy.
Danielle: They lost all their money and they probably had to compensate for the other attorneys. I’m sure they did, because these are shenanigans and they’re wild animals. I could see if you had asked for a remedy if you want them transferred to a place that’s more suitable and you were hoping they would get people who will trap them and move them or whatever, but they’re not even on your property.
Cassie: They’re just living their best alligator lives.
Danielle: Well, that’s another reason for me not to live in the deep south. I wouldn’t wanna have them as a neighbor.
Cassie: My kids are obsessed with ‘I survived’ stories. You know, you can get those books and there was one that was a guy literally survived getting attacked by an alligator, like was in the mouth of the alligator getting attacked and survived.
Danielle: No thank you. I’ve watched a couple shows with my kids where they’re somewhere in Africa and there’s this whole swamp area, like a lot of water, but it’s these weeds and there’s tunnels through the weeds, like that’s how the alligators are in their little nests and they will do dives down there to film, but you have to do certain days, like right after or certain times of the day where right after they’ve eaten. Just watching it makes my heart beat so fast.
Ali: I mean, if you pick the balls to be the first person to try that and be like, I guess, let’s see if I die or not.
Danielle: They go into scuba gear and these alligators or crocodiles are massive. 10 feet, 12 feet, and vicious. It’s wild watching it. I’ll have to find the show.
Cassie: I would never want to have a run in with an alligator. We have some things here that are scary, like, we have mountain lions, maybe brown bears.
Ali: Because by the time you see them, they’ve known about you for like the past mile.
Danielle: Crocodiles are fast, they’re extremely strong and they have lots of teeth. I feel for those people living next to an alligator- infested area.
Cassie: But I just don’t feel like they were actually trying to solve any problems, and they knew that there were alligators out there because their agent disclosed to them that his horse had been got by an alligator on the property. I think it was just a little, a little nibble, but still.
Danielle: Poor horse. A little nibble.. How did it get away?
Cassie: Once again, we need to make sure our clients are doing their due diligence and researching beforehand.
Danielle: There’s obviously a lawsuit about everything.
Cassie: There’s a lawsuit for everything. I read this and when I first did, I was surprised they didn’t like going after their agent or the seller for not disclosing, which they wouldn’t have had a case.
Danielle: Well, and they did. They disclosed there was an alligator.
Casssie: Yeah. I mean, at least more than some people would. At least their agent warned them that there were alligators out there. I don’t know. And I’d just be curious once again to see a plat map of the area of like, how did you not know that there’s this giant waste removal site?
Danielle: I was thinking that too. Cause I’m like 35 acres is a lot of acreage, but in four years you didn’t walk the whole perimeter of your acreage.
Cassie: I took them four years to realize that they were neighboring this alligator infested, abandoned waste site. Like how do you not know that that’s next door to you?
Ali: It’s so funny cuz when you say waste site, like I have an obvious picture in my mind. It’s probably nothing like what it actually is like.
Danielle: I think of it as like these big buildings, I don’t even know. It’s like a waste disposal site owned by Exxon and like, it’s basically like a landfill type thing.
Cassie: So you wouldn’t necessarily know, especially like down there where everything can be like really heavily wooded and really dense forest. Like you may not know, but in 2007 at Exxon’s request, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries surveyed the property and reported the presence of 84 alligators that they saw.
Danielle: 84. Wow.
Cassie: I don’t know how big their property is. It could be like hundreds of acres. I mean that’s still a lot of alligators. I know. Number of alligators per acre, we’re not sure of, was it like one alligator per acre, was it three alligators per acre?
Ali: Yeah, but they’re wild animals.
Cassie: I know. What are you gonna do?
Danielle: Weird. Ugh. Spiders are people too. Don’t kill ’em.
Cassie: I rescue the spiders. I don’t mind the spiders.
Ali: You know what though? If a spider is born inside and you put it outside, you actually end up killing it anyway cuz it’s not used to the outside.
Danielle: Oh, Cassie, torturing them.
Cassie: Ali, do you know how hard I have worked to make amends with the spiders?
Ali: And now you know it was for nothing. Now you’re just killing them slower.
Cassie: Ooh, you’re a cruel person. My karma that I thought I had just dropped by about two years.
Ali: Yeah, you’re a murderer.
Cassie: But I will say there was a little jumping spider in my house that’s like the size of an eraser. A little pencil.
Ali: Why do they jump? What do you mean they like to jump?
Cassie: They’re not harmful, and I was trying to get it on a piece of paper to put it outside and it was real skittish and it looked really scared with his little front paw.
Ali: Paws? Alright.
Cassie: If I think of them like little cats, I’m not as afraid of them. So I made an agreement with it that if it didn’t crawl into my bed, it could stay in the house.
Ali: And can you trust it?
Cassie: It’s been a few days now and he has stayed in the kitchen and he is living his best life. And he’ll pop out and look around at us and then go back to the little painting he likes to sit on.
Ali: Did you name him?
Cassie: Not yet, but I do need to name him. He’s very cute. I used to be terrified of spiders and now I’m not, so maybe it’s the same with alligators.
Ali: I would love to know somebody who lives by alligators.
Danielle: My dad used to live near the Everglades in Florida. He was down there for work and he said you would drive like through certain roads, through the Everglades and like you didn’t stop, you didn’t get outta your car, you just kept going, because there’s so many alligators.
Cassie: I knew someone who lived in Florida through one of my fitness certifications I got, and one of her dogs got eaten by an alligator.
Danielle: Nope. Which is why we live here and not there, right?
Cassie: We’re sorry. All of our Florida listeners slash Mississippi, Alabama, wherever.
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