Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
Oil Valley Petroleum v. Moore
Plaintiff Oil Valley Petroleum, LLC and defendant Clay Moore (Moore) sought equitable relief to adjudicate title based upon two oil and gas leases. Plaintiff requested the trial court to quiet title, cancel an oil and gas lease, and declare its top-lease to be in force and effect. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted defendant's motion and denied plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the district court and directed judgment for plaintiff. Defendant sought certiorari to review the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) exhibits presented during summary judgment proceedings were insufficient to show a material fact that a well was commercially profitable for the purpose of the habendum clause of an oil and gas lease; (2) an overriding royalty interest may be extinguished by an extinguishment of the working interest from which it was carved by a lessee's surrender of the lease in substantial compliance with the lease, unless the surrender is the result of fraud or breach of a fiduciary relationship; and (3) prevailing party status for the purpose of an attorney fee is determined by the trial court when not determined on appeal. The opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated and the Court reversed the order granting Moore a partial summary judgment and remanded for additional proceedings. View "Oil Valley Petroleum v. Moore" on Justia Law
Fitzpatrick v. Fitzpatrick
Nicole Fitzpatrick obtained a dissolution of her marriage to Jeremy Fitzpatrick. The couple had minor children and significant marital assets, including real property, bank accounts, investments, and personal possessions. Among these were investments in oil and gas assets. The issue this case presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s review centered on the Court of Civil Appeals decision regarding the division of the oil and gas assets. During the course of the marriage, Husband pursued a mutual goal of investments in oil and gas assets through two different ventures. He inextricably tied the Bakken and Energy deals and encumbered marital assets. The trial court found that all the A and B units of both the Bakken and Energy properties were acquired during the marriage through joint efforts of both parties, and were marital property subject to division. Because part of the properties' value lay in their future growth, the trial court considered the most equitable form of property division. The court ordered that future distributions and proceeds flowing from both sets of A and B units were to be held in constructive trust for both parties' benefit, and for Husband to distribute her equal marital share to Wife. COCA reversed the trial court's decisions regarding the Energy A and B units, finding that the trial court should have determined the units' value and set a valuation date. COCA also found that the trial court's use of a constructive trust for the Energy units was not proper. However, COCA did not disturb the trial court's use of a constructive trust with regard to the Bakken units. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s authority to distribute the assets although they could not be valued at the time of the divorce decree; the Court concurred with the trial court’s imposition of a constructive trust to ensure protection of the assets’ future value. View "Fitzpatrick v. Fitzpatrick" on Justia Law
Okla. Gas & Electric Co. v. State ex rel. Okla. Corp. Comm’n
In 2018, ONEOK Arbuckle II Pipeline, LLC began construction of a natural gas liquid pipeline to transport Oklahoma production to the interstate market. The pipeline required electricity to operate a series of pump stations, including the Binger II Pump Station. The location for the proposed Binger II was in the certified territory of CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Inc., which has exclusive rights to provide electricity in the area pursuant to the Retail Electric Supplier Certified Territory Act. Relying on the large-load exception to the RESCTA, OG&E submitted a bid to provide service to the Binger II, which ONEOK accepted, and the parties contracted for service. CKenergy appealed this contract to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission asserting that it was a violation of its exclusive rights under the RESCTA. The Commission enjoined OG&E's service, concluding that the meaning of "extending its service" in section 158.25(E) limited the manner or mechanism which OG&E could use to provide service under the large-load exception. OG&E and ONEOK appealed, the Oklahoma Supreme Court retained both appeals, and consolidated the cases. The Supreme Court held that section 158.25(E) allowed OG&E to extend its service to large loads in the manner proposed. Therefore, the Commission's order enjoining OG&E was vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Okla. Gas & Electric Co. v. State ex rel. Okla. Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law
Tres C, LLC v. Raker Resources
Plaintiff-respondent Tres C, LLC was an Oklahoma limited liability company whose members were Viola "Tincy" Cowan, her son David Cowan, her daughter Karlea Cowan Ewald, her grandson Scot Meier, and her granddaughter Marsha Bukowski. Tres C was a successor-in-interest to certain mineral interests a the 320-acre lot in Blaine County, Oklahoma, that were formerly owned by the parents of Tincy's late husband, George and Coral Cowan. In February 1955, George and Carol Cowan executed an oil and gas lease in favor of J.J. Wright (hereinafter "the Lessee") concerning those mineral interests. Under its habendum clause, the Cowan Lease would remain valid for a primary term lasting 10 years and then--so long as a producing well was drilled--for a secondary term lasting "as long thereafter as oil, gas, casinghead gas, casinghead gasoline, or any of the products covered by this lease is or can be produced." Defendants-petitioners were the Lessee's current successors-in-interest under the Cowan Lease. This appeal concerned the trial court's judgment that granted Plaintiff's petition to cancel defendant's oil and gas lease and to quiet title in its favor so that a third party could exercise the option of executing a new lease. The Court of Civil Appeals conditionally affirmed the trial court's judgment, but remanded the matter with instructions to address the noncontractual defense of obstructions, set forth in Jones v. Moore, 338 P.2d 872. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the trial court erred in applying a rule of law that analyzed only a 3-month window of time for assessing whether a dip in the existing well's production was a cessation of production in paying quantities such that defendants' lease expired by its own terms. On de novo review, the Court found the trial court did err insofar as it relied upon the lease's cessation-of-production clause to define the time period for assessing profitability. The Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion, reversed the trial court's judgment, quieted title in favor of Defendants, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Tres C, LLC v. Raker Resources" on Justia Law
Kpiele-Poda v. Patterson-UTI Energy, et al.
In 2018, Mwande Serge Kpiele-Poda ("Employee") was injured at a wellsite while repairing a conveyor that activated and crushed his legs. While Employee's Workers' Compensation claim was still pending, he filed a petition asserting negligence and products liability against his employers, two wellsite operators, and the manufacturers and distributors of the conveyor. Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. was named in the body of the petition but omitted from the caption. After the statute of limitations period expired, Employee amended his petition to add Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. as a defendant in the petition's caption. A second amended petition added other parties. Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. moved to dismiss arguing the claim was time-barred because the amended petition did not relate back to the first petition. Employee's employers also moved to dismiss arguing the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act and Oklahoma precedent precluded employees from simultaneously maintaining an action before the Workers' Compensation Commission and in the district court. The district court granted each dismissal motion and certified each order as appealable. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained and consolidated Employee's separate appeals, holding: (1) the district court erred when it dismissed Employee's action against Ovintiv Mid-Continent, Inc. as time-barred; and (2) the district court properly dismissed Employee's intentional tort action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Kpiele-Poda v. Patterson-UTI Energy, et al." on Justia Law
Crown Energy Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co.
Crown Energy Company ("Crown") brought suit against Mid-Continent Casualty Company ("Mid-Continent") seeking declaratory judgment that two commercial general liability policies issued to Crown provided coverage for claims of property damage brought against Crown in a separate action. The claims arose out of seismic activity allegedly caused by Crown's use of waste water disposal wells in its oil and gas operations. Mid-Continent filed a counterclaim, seeking declaratory judgment that the claims were not covered under the policies because the seismic activity did not constitute an "occurrence" and that the claims fell within a pollution exclusion to the policies. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Crown. Mid-Continent appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the seismic activity did constitute an occurrence under the policies, and that the pollution exclusion did not bar coverage. The Court of Civil Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the trial court affirmed. View "Crown Energy Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Continental Resources v. Wolla Oilfield Services
The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma certified two questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court relating to the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, and whether it applied to conduct outside of Oklahoma. The matter concenred a dispute between Continental Resources, Inc. (Continental), an oil and gas producer headquartered in Oklahoma, and Wolla Oilfield Services, LLC (Wolla), a North Dakota limited liability company that operated as a hot oil service provider in North Dakota. Continental alleged the parties entered into an agreement for Wolla to provide hot oil services at an hourly rate to Continental's wells in North Dakota. As part of the contract, Wolla agreed to submit its invoices through an "online billing system" and to bill accurately and comprehensively for work it performed. A whistleblower in Wolla's accounting department notified Continental about systematic overbilling in connection with this arrangement. Continental conducted an audit and concluded Wolla's employees were overbilling it for time worked. Wolla denies these allegations. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded: (1) the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act does not apply to a consumer transaction when the offending conduct that triggers the Act occurs solely within the physical boundaries of another state; and (2) the Act also does not apply to conduct where, even if the physical location is difficult to pinpoint, such actions or transactions have a material impact on, or material nexus to, a consumer in the state of Oklahoma. View "Continental Resources v. Wolla Oilfield Services" on Justia Law
Magnum Energy v. Bd. of Adjustment for the City of Norman
Plaintiff Magnum Energy, Inc. appealed a Board of Adjustment for the City of Norman (Board) decision denying Plaintiff's application for a variance from the City's business licensing requirement that oil and gas operators maintain two million dollars in umbrella liability coverage. The trial court granted summary judgment in Plaintiff's favor, finding that the requirement conflicted with State law and was therefore unenforceable. The Board appealed the trial court's order; the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the order, finding no conflict between the requirement and State law. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding the requirement conflicted with 52 O.S.Supp.2015 section 137.1, rendering the requirement invalid and unenforceable. View "Magnum Energy v. Bd. of Adjustment for the City of Norman" on Justia Law
National American Ins. Co. v. New Dominion
National American Insurance Company ("NAICO") brought suit against New Dominion, LLC, seeking a declaratory judgment that four consecutive commercial general liability policies it issued to New Dominion did not provide coverage for bodily injury and property damage claims asserted in a number of separate lawsuits ("the Earthquake Lawsuits"). These claims allegedly arose out of seismic activity caused by New Dominion's oil and gas operations. New Dominion filed a counterclaim alleging breach of contract, seeking defense and indemnity, and asserting equitable claims for estoppel and reformation. The trial court bifurcated the issues pleaded, conducted separate bench trials for the contract interpretation questions and the equitable claims. Following the first bench trial, the court issued a declaratory judgment holding that the Total Pollution Exclusions and the Subsidence and Earth Movement Exclusions in the commercial general liability policies clearly and unambiguously precluded coverage for the claims asserted in the Earthquake Lawsuits. Following the second trial, the court estopped NAICO from denying claims for bodily injury during one of the four policy periods but denied all other equitable claims. Both parties appealed, raising "a litany" of issues with the trial court's orders. The Oklahoma Supreme Court joined the cases and held: (1) the Total Pollution Exclusions did not clearly and unambiguously preclude coverage; (2) the Subsidence and Earth Movement Exclusions clearly and unambiguously precluded coverage; and (3) there was no basis for New Dominion's estoppel or reformation claims. View "National American Ins. Co. v. New Dominion" on Justia Law
Claude C. Arnold Non-Operated Royalty Interest Properties v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.
The dispute in this case centered on two oil-and-gas-producing formations known as the Chester and the Marmaton, located in Beaver County, Oklahoma. In 1973, Arnold Petroleum, Inc., the predecessor in interest to plaintiffs (collectively, "Arnold") obtained six oil-and-gas leases covering land in Beaver County. Over the course of 1973 and 1974, Arnold Petroleum assigned its leases to Dyco Petroleum Corporation, expressly reserving an overriding royalty interest in any oil and gas produced under the leases. Dyco assigned the leases to Harold Courson, the predecessor in interest of defendant Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. This assignment, too, was expressly subject to Arnold's overriding royalty interest. Two wells drilled in the Chester formation produced "mostly gas with some oil" continuously since the mid-1970s, and at no point since then did Arnold ever stop receiving payments on its overriding royalty interest in those producing wells. In 1984, Courson obtained several new leases from the mineral owners who had granted the 1973 leases. The 1984 leases purported to cover the same rights as the original 1973 leases, but were silent as to any particular geologic formation or zone. Arnold did not become aware of the 1984 leases until 1999 when it and other royalty holders received a letter from Courson explaining he had recompleted a well in the Chester formation that had originally been drilled into the separate Lower Chester formation by Natural Gas Anadarko, Inc. (NGA). In the 1999 conversation, a Courson employee told the Arnold landman the 1984 leases covered only "deep rights" or "lower depths" that had expired under the 1973 leases. This assertion would exclude the Marmaton. For the next 13 years, the matter of the Marmaton formation would remain dormant. Courson assigned his leases to Cabot in August 2011, and Cabot drilled and completed several horizontal wells in the Marmaton. Cabot rejected Arnold's request for payment, and Arnold sued in October 2012, seeking damages for nonpayment of royalties. Cabot argued Arnold's claims were barred because the applicable statute of limitations began to run with the filing of the new leases in 1984, which event (in Cabot's view) should have put Arnold on notice of an adverse claim to the Marmaton. The issue presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether plaintiffs waited too long in asserting their right to payment of the overriding royalty interest. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs on those grounds. The Supreme Court disagreed: this litigation could not have arisen until defendant first developed the disputed formation in 2012, and then refused plaintiffs' request for payment of royalties from that production. "Nothing preceding that sequence of events could reasonably have foreclosed plaintiffs' ability to press their claim for the payments to which they were entitled under valid mineral leases." View "Claude C. Arnold Non-Operated Royalty Interest Properties v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp." on Justia Law