As the energy industry has evolved from oil to natural gas, solar power, wind energy, and more, each new source of energy has encountered its own regulatory issues and legal challenges.
Points to Consider
The expanding energy industry requires legal experts who understand the industry’s direction. The following is a partial list of traditional and emerging energy issues:
Products liability claims - Homes, businesses, government offices, train and subway systems are run by gas and electrical power generation, transmission, and distribution systems. When electrical and chemical energy is misplaced, energy companies may face a product liability lawsuit for personal injury, property damage or subrogation claims. As alternative energy ramps up, it faces claims by consumers, workers and businesses for personal injury or property damage from falls, electrocution and rotating parts in wind turbines, and fires in the rapidly evolving solar power industry, especially in roof-mounted arrays. Battery storage poses challenges and opportunities for misuse that have generated fire and explosion claims.
General/premises liability claims – Energy companies can face lawsuits when injuries occur on their premises, these may include consumer claims, or injuries to contract workers on site to install or maintain equipment. Claims also involve contact with transmission equipment such as utility poles, live wires or gas lines.
Insurance and risk transfer – Companies that do business in the energy sector are often required to maintain insure business associates and map out or enforce risk transfers. Policies and risk transfer agreements are subject to the interplay of contract wording, public policy and precedent. Drafting, interpreting and enforcing the agreements takes experience, commitment and skill.
Construction liability claims – Expanding into new energy markets often requires creating new infrastructure. Construction claims typically involve statutory labor law and scaffold/above-ground construction issues as that infrastructure is built. After completion, the energy company may need to look for recovery for construction defects.
Contracts – Like other industries, energy companies must contract with third parties for parts and services. Often, there are gray areas, especially in the realm of performance specifications, remedies and risk allocation, in energy contracts that end up in litigation or arbitration.
Creditors’ Rights – The energy industry is subject to wide demand, supply and price swings, driven by the market, government policy and technology. When creditors caught in the business cycle don’t meet their payment commitments, we can help our our clients protect and recover their due.
Toxic/environmental concerns – Despite energy companies’ best efforts to comply with ever-evolving environmental regulations, there are often claims made against energy companies that their products have exposed workers, neighbors, consumers or the environment to toxins. This leads to litigation over the reality of the claimed harms, and who bears responsibility for them.
Employment – As the energy industry grows in some areas and contracts in others, employers must hire, train and sometimes fire or retire employees. These shifts inevitably generate a need for counseling, and administrative and legal defense.
IP – Energy companies need to protect their brand. They need to design, license and sell technology. They can accomplish much of this through proper use and filing of patents, trademarks, copyrights, and licensing. When others accuse the company of violating intellectual property rights or improperly violate the company’s rights, the company may need to litigate.
If you’re in the energy business, partner with a law firm that understands the energy industry.