Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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Stephens Production Company sought to condemn underground natural gas storage easements and surface easements to complete an underground natural gas storage facility on and underneath approximately 900 acres of mostly rural property in Haskell County. Approximately 140 Defendants were named in the Petition. Stephens Production had previously offered such Defendants "just market value" for their respective interests, but the Defendants refused the offers. The trial court appointed three commissioners to value just compensation due for each Defendant listed in the Petition. All Defendants except one, appellant Royce Larsen, settled with Stephens Production. The Commissioners valued Larsen's property taken and the damage to the remainder at $12,400.00. Larsen objected to this amount, and his case proceeded to trial. Larsen's expert testified the just compensation value was approximately $419,000.00; Stephens Production's expert valued the just compensation at $9,000.00. The trial court determined that just compensation for the property was $9,000.00. Without any evidence from Larsen regarding the reasonable probability of combination or the market demand for underground gas storage in the area, the highest and best use of the property was the use to which it was subject at the time of the taking - natural resource, agricultural, and recreational use. The Supreme Court concluded the record supported the trial court's valuation of just compensation at $9,000.00. View "Stephens Production Co. v. Larsen" on Justia Law

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Parties to an agreement regarding an area of mutual interest for the purposes of oil and gas exploration sought to determine their respective rights under the agreement. The agreement gave the respondents in this case the right to participate in wells in futuro. The petitioners urged that the provision violated the rule against perpetuities. The district court agreed and granted judgment to the petitioners. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part remanded the matter for further proceedings. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether a clause in an agreement giving a limited liability company the right to participate in all future wells on unleased property violated Article II, Section 32 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibiting perpetuities, and whether a limited liability company was a "life in being." The Court answered the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative, finding that the district court did not err in granting a motion to dismiss based on these two questions. View "American Natural Resources, LLC v. Eagle Rock Energy Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

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This appeal was one of many concerning natural gas wells operated from 1978 to 1998 in Beckham County, Oklahoma. In the immediately preceding appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed a jury verdict for damages for breach of drilling leases for $3,650,000, but reversed two other jury awards in the amounts of $4,055,000.00 and $6,845,000.00. The trial court denied prejudgment interest and the royalty owners appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that: (1) review of the issue of prejudgment interest is not precluded by the settled-law-of-the-case doctrine; (2) the Production Revenue Standards Act, 52 O.S. 2011 sec. 570 et seq., was inapplicable to the facts presented; and (3) because the plaintiff's claims were unliquidated, prejudgment interest was not recoverable pursuant to 23 O.S. 2011 sec. 6. View "Krug v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc." on Justia Law

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Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (H&P) appeals a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, who are a class of oil and gas royalty owners. The class alleged that the defendant breached contractual and fiduciary duties by allowing uncompensated drainage of natural gas to occur from the leases and that the defendant engaged in constructive fraud and was unjustly enriched by failing to pay royalty amounts that the class alleged were included in a settlement between the defendant and ANR Pipeline. The jury returned verdicts on three alternative theories of recovery. The trial court judge granted judgment that included disgorgement of profits based on a sum the trial court found unjustly enriched H&P. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. H&P argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that: (1) the trial court erred in its jury instructions for uncompensated drainage that barred consideration of counterdrainage; (2) the appellate court erred by allowing a breach of contract claim to be recast as an equitable unjust enrichment claim; (3) the appellate court erred in affirming a "mathematically impossible" jury verdict on plaintiffs' constructive fraud claims; and (4) the appellate court erred in affirming the constructive fraud damage award notwithstanding that no fraud claim was ever certified. After review, the Supreme Court found: (1) the trial court committed no reversible error; (2) the jury found that plaintiffs did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that H&P acted in reckless disregard for the rights of others, nor that H&P acted intentionally and with malice toward others; (3) because the Court reversed the judgment based on equity, the third reason for granting certiorari was answered; and (4) having reversed the constructive fraud damage award, the Court held this issue was moot. View "Krug v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Enerlex, Inc. offered to purchase plaintiffs'-appellees' mineral interest. At the time, plaintiffs did not know that their Seminole County mineral interests were included in a pooling order or that proceeds had accrued under the pooling order. Defendant admitted it knew about the pooling order and the accrued proceeds but did not disclose these facts in making the purchase offer. Plaintiffs signed the mineral deeds which defendant provided and subsequently discovered the pooling order, the production, and the accrued proceeds. Plaintiffs sued for rescission and damages, alleging misrepresentation, deceit and fraud. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the summary judgment. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded defendant obtained the mineral deeds from plaintiffs by false representation and suppression of the whole truth. Defendant was therefore liable to plaintiffs for constructive fraud. Rescission was the appropriate remedy for defendant's misrepresentation and constructive fraud. Therefore, the Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the district court's judgment. View "Widner v. Enerlex, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant offered to purchase plaintiffs-appellees' mineral interest in Seminole County. At the time, plaintiffs did not know that they had inherited the mineral interest, that the mineral interest was included in a pooling order, or that proceeds had accrued under the pooling order. Defendant admitted it knew about the pooling order and the accrued proceeds but did not disclose these facts in making the offer. Plaintiffs signed the mineral deeds which defendant provided, and subsequently, they discovered the pooling order and the accrued proceeds. Plaintiffs filed suit against defendant for rescission and damages, alleging misrepresentation, deceit and fraud. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed. The issues before the Supreme Court on appeal were: (1) whether the summary judgment record on appeal established that defendant owed the plaintiffs a duty to disclose the pooling order and the accrued mineral proceeds when it made an unsolicited offer to purchase their undivided mineral interest in Seminole County and provided the mineral deeds to be executed; and if so, (2) whether rescission of the mineral deeds was a remedy for defendant's breach of the disclosure duty. The Court held that defendant owed a duty to disclose the accrued mineral proceeds to plaintiffs when it offered to purchase the mineral interest and provided the mineral deeds conveying the mineral interest and assigning the accrued mineral proceeds, if any. Furthermore, the Court held that rescission is an appropriate remedy in this case for the breach of defendant's disclosure duty. View "Croslin v. Enerex, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2004, Plaintiff-Appellant Vick Hubbard filed suit against Defendants Kaiser-Francis Oil Company, Texas Southwest Gas and GBK Corporation for breach of an oil and gas lease and a gas purchase contract. Pursuant to 12 OS Supp. Sec. 1101.1(B), Defendants offered Plaintiff $275 for each of the seven alleged breaches. Plaintiff did not accept the offers and did not submit a counteroffer. By the statute, the offers were deemed rejected. Defendants moved for summary judgment that was granted and entered by the trial court. Plaintiffs appealed. Thereafter, Defendants filed a joint motion to recover their costs and fees based on Plaintiff's failure to obtain a judgment for more that the combined amount of Defendants' offers. In 2005, the parties reached an agreement on litigation costs and attorney fees that were to be paid by Plaintiff. Plaintiff paid that amount and Defendants withdrew their motion. Because of Plaintiff's appeal, the case was remanded to district court. The parties moved for summary judgment. The court granted Defendants' motion. Judgment for Defendants was entered in 2007. Defendants subsequently filed a supplemental joint combined motion for attorney fees for costs they incurred since 2005. In 2008, the district court granted Defendants' motion. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented for review were matters of first impression. Of import in this case was: (1) whether Defendants were entitled to attorney fees under Sec. 1101.1 because they received a summary judgment, and (2) whether a judgment that was appealed and remanded negated Defendants' 1101.1 offer of judgment made prior to the appeal. Upon careful consideration of the arguments, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' decisions in this case. The Court held that Defendants were entitled to litigation costs, and that the offer of judgment was applicable throughout the case, including through any appeals and remand. View "Hubbard v. Kaiser-Francis Oil Co." on Justia Law