A Montezuma County man has indicated that he plans to file a counterclaim for damages against a regional oil company. A judge has advised him to proceed cautiously.
Appearing via telephone at a hearing on Friday, July 24, a Sinclair Oil Corp. attorney said the company would neither seek monetary damages nor attorney fees in a civil matter against Raymond McCarty. The company filed a complaint to retrieve its trademarked logos from McCarty's property in January.
"Sinclair has been remedied," company attorney Emily Cooper told District Court Judge Todd Plewe.
Earlier this month, the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office served civil paperwork at the former U.S. 160 station, located between Mancos and Cortez. The Wyoming-based oil company's signage was subsequently removed.
Despite Sinclair's willingness to end the case, McCarty told the court that the brontosaurus-themed signs, considered one of the most recognizable corporate logos in the world, belonged to him. Owner of the now defunct gas station, McCarty said the signs had been in place for more than two decades.
"The sign has been illegally taken from my property," McCarty told Plewe.
Representing himself at last week's proceeding, McCarty requested that a jury decide the matter, stating the court acted improperly when allowing the company to remove the sign.
"It's my right to have a jury trial," McCarty proclaimed to an empty courtroom.
In an attempt to explain the legal process, Plewe warned McCarty that he had yet to file a counterclaim seeking damages from Sinclair in the civil matter, adding there was no legal ground for continued litigation.
McCarty was also informed that he could be on the hook for Sinclair's attorney fees, estimated at $350 per hour, if he opted to pursue the case. Reiterating his concerns, Plewe told McCarty that the company would likely prevail if he sought civil damages.
"I don't want to cause you any more pain," Plewe warned McCarty.
The former Wild Wild Rest Sinclair Gas station and convenience store, which closed in 2004, was located on three parcels of land that McCarty owned. He has maintained that the site was contaminated by a petrochemical spill after officials removed gasoline storage tanks from the premises.
Afterwards, McCarty erected a billboard that read, "Massive Petroleum Spill - Toxic Site." "Poison" signs complete with skull-and-cross bone icons and "This Toxic Mess Brought To You By State of Colorado" was also installed.
At last week's hearing, McCarty argued that if Sinclair could remove their logos, then they should also be responsible for cleaning up the oil and gasoline that contaminated his property. He requested the court provide him adequate time to file the proper paperwork.
Despite his reservations, Plewe granted McCarty's request, giving him 30 days to file a complaint.
Beleaguered at the lack of cleanup assistance from government and corporate officials, McCarty has indicated that he would continue his fight. Last summer, he told Montezuma County commissioners that the groundwater under his property was contaminated with 400 times the allowable limit of ethyl benzene and toluene.
"I'm going to hammer it as long as I can hammer it," McCarty told county officials in 2014. "It's unjust."
In a previous federal civil suit, a jury awarded McCarty $1 in damages, basically rejecting his claims that a local gas supplier was responsible for the spill.
Colorado officials have agreed to clean the site, but McCarty has refused access to the site.
Sinclair has more than 2,700 independently owned gas stations in 22 states. The company also operates two oil refineries, more than 1,000 miles of pipelines, exploration operations, a trucking fleet, and also own two hotel chains and two ski resorts.