The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to settle a dispute between a couple that charges the ExxonMobil Corp. with causing an invasion of more than 80 alligators on their land in Wilkinson County.
Tom and Consandra Christmas bought 35 acres of land next to ExxonMobil property in southwest Mississippi in 2003, but discovered the reptiles four years ago, according to The Associated Press
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The Christmases charged that the alligator infestation is a non-abatable nuisance that has caused a permanent injury to their property and are seeking damages for permanent depreciation of their land, reported the AP.
ExxonMobil, though, claimed that the Christmases' real estate agent told them about the alligators as far back as 2003 and the Christmases waited too long to file a lawsuit, stating their claim has passed the statute of limitations.
A Mississippi circuit court judge threw out the Christmases original case in 2011, but a state court of appeals returned the case to Wilkinson County for trial. ExxonMobil appealed that ruling to Mississippi's Supreme Court.
"Alligators were allegedly introduced to the Exxon property prior to 1984, and the retention ponds have apparently existed at least that long," stated the Christmases filing to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. "It was also attested that by the year 2000 (at the latest), there were 'many, many alligators' on the Exxon property, and a real estate agent involved in the sale of the property to the Christmases stated that an alligator may have attacked a horse he kept on the Christmas property."
ExxonMobil said the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks prevents them from doing anything with the alligator population because they are a protected species.
In a brief, the department wrote that that it has the only authority to rule if an alligator is a nuisance and determine what steps can be taken to deal with it.
ExxonMobil also charged that it cannot be held liable on the roaming of wild alligators onto the Christmases' adjoining property.
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