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When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in August 2013 on a closed-door hearing in which a natural gas company’s lawyer seemed to argue that under a $750,000 settlement, a family’s 7- and 10-year-old children would be banned for life from talking about hydraulic fracking, it raised eyebrows.
Chris and Stephanie Hallowich had sued Range Resources claiming that drilling for shale gas next to their property had damaged their property value and their health. In the settlement hearing, when talking about the sealed non-disclosure agreement that was part of the settlement, Range Resources’ lawyer James Swetz said: “I guess our position is it does apply to the whole family. We would certainly enforce it.”
After a flurry of legal scholars opined that this was not an enforceable clause, Range Resources backed off Swetz’s statement. The company announced that Swetz no longer represented them, and that they “never, at any time, had the intention of seeking to hold a minor child legally accountable for a breach of that provision of the settlement agreement.”
When asked, the Hallowichs’ attorney Peter Villari said that the sealed agreement had indeed “unequivocally” claimed the right to do so.
ABAJournal.com: “No talking about fracking, settlement gag order says; were kids bound too?”