To build a natural gas pipeline, Alliance Pipeline obtained easements from agricultural landowners in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. As a condition for the easement, Alliance agreed to pay for any crop losses the pipeline caused. Alliance terminated this crop loss payment program in 2015. Ten landowners in Iowa and Minnesota brought this lawsuit alleging breach of contract and sought class certification to include other landowners and farm tenants.
To establish a class action, the court will first consider the numerosity, commonality, and typicality of the class as well as the ability of the proposed representative to adequately protect the interests of the class. Fed R. Civ. Pro. R. 23(a). Additionally, the class must be clearly ascertainable. McKeage v. TMBC, LLC, 847 F.3d 992, 998 (8th Cir. 2017). In granting the motion for class certification, the court ruled that all factors were met. For example, questions common to the class existed, including whether Alliance had a contractual obligation to compensate landowners for crop loss and, if so, whether Alliance breached that obligation. The court did, however, find that several of the proposed representatives could not adequately protect the interests of the class because they did not have direct knowledge of the agricultural operations on their property. As such, the court declined to certify those five landowners as class representatives.
H & T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P, 2021 WL 2526737 (D. Minn. June 21, 2021).