Judge Allows Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Enbridge To Move Forward

Posted at 6:46 PM, Mar 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-01 10:08:30-04

CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. (March 31, 2014)– A civil court case against Enbridge is moving forward in Calhoun County.

The oil pipeline company was responsible for a spill of more than 800,000 gallons of oil in the Marshall area and Kalamazoo River in 2010 after a pipeline rupture.

A former contracted employee who worked for SET Environmental said Enbridge forced his employer to fire him after he accused them of covering-up during clean-up.

The case in Calhoun County involves whistleblower John Bolenbaugh.

He’s suing for damages for intentional interference of contract as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He claims some of that emotional damage stems from incidents in which he feels that Enbridge harassed him.

Bolenbaugh described one situation in which Enbridge employees pulled into a driveway prohibiting him from leaving.

He said, “Enbridge surrounded my vehicle at the front of this person’s driveway.”

A man who said he worked as a security officer at one time, through contractor DK Security, has offered to back-up Bolenbaugh’s claims that employees for Enbridge approached him while he was legally allowed to be on public property.

“He was on public property,” said Garrett Murray, a former security team member. “We had no right to say he couldn’t be there, but all these workers were coming after him.  I stepped forward and yelled to the workers and said I would handle it.”

Calhoun County Court Judge James Kingsley weighed in during court proceedings Monday on whether Bolenbaugh could move forward with his suit.

Bolenbaugh’s attorney, Tom Warnicke, fought to keep five counts moving forward.

Meanwhile, Enbridge attorney Kathleen Lang fought to throw out three counts listed in the lawsuit.

Judge Kingsley decided that three counts can move forward, including two counts of interference with contract causing termination of employment and one count of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The judge dismissed two other counts of malicious prosecution and false imprisonment that had been filed in the complaint against Enbridge.

While that may have been a victory for Enbridge, there were some motions that were also denied for the oil company.

In one such motion, Lang tried to protect the company’s parent headquarters in Calgary, Canada, arguing over jurisdiction.

She wished to take two Canada-based entities off the list of those named in the lawsuit.

Lang said that employees there weren’t directly involved in what was happening in Michigan.

However, the judge said the two entities will remain listed in the suit for now.

“It is possible, under corporate umbrella, there could have been actions by the two principal Canadian elements of Enbridge. That they either participated in or knowingly knew what was going on without any further action being taken.” said Judge Kingsley.

Lang’s motion to throw out the count that alleges Enbridge caused intentional emotional distress was also denied.

Bolenbaugh’s attorney, Tom Warnicke, sees the result of Monday’ s hearing as a victory.

“Absolutely. Judge Kingsley denied a couple counts in the lawsuit,” said Warnicke. “However, he allowed the primary count to proceed forward in my opinion. That was the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.”

“I feel great,” said Bolenbaugh. “I’m very excited because the judge actually is allowing us to go forward.”

Bolenbaugh said he feels that if the case goes before a jury, he will win.

“If the jury sees the evidence and the documents and my videos and has other workers testify to the cover ups…that I was harassed and followed, there`s no doubt in my mind,” said Bolenbaugh.

Enbridge Attorney Kathleen Lang opted not to comment after the hearing.

Lorraine Little, Senior Manager of U.S. Public Affairs Liquids Operations & Projects for Enbridge, issued a brief statement saying, “Enbridge does not comment on pending litigation. We look forward to vigorously defending our case. We will have no further comment until the case is resolved.”

Attorneys for Manpower of Lansing, Michigan & Terra Contracting were also present during Monday’s hearing.  They are also listed in the suit.

The judge has given the parties involved until Sept. 1, for discovery.