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Energy & the Law

Category Archives: Litigation

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How an Expert Can Affect Your Oil and Gas Claim

Posted in Litigation

Co-author Matthew Wheatley Your well consultant just cemented 10,000 feet of tubing inside the casing of your eight million dollar well, … a neighboring operator frac’ed his Eagle Ford well into your Austin Chalk completion, thereby trespassing and contaminating your well. Righteousness and vengeance are yours. The jury will draw and quarter the offender. Not So Fast Texokan Operating,… Continue Reading

How to Manage Credit and Collect Unpaid Bills in Today’s Oil Patch

Posted in Contract Disputes, Litigation

Co-authors Preston Kamin and Joe Virene Everybody from the well site to the board room has an opinion about when oil prices will “rebound”. Rather than an opinion, we have a question:  How do I collect my money while we’re waiting? This post is a refresher for service companies and suppliers looking for money from operators, and for operators looking to non-operators.  There are many steps… Continue Reading

Lipsky Revisited – Details and Debate

Posted in Hydraulic Fracturing, Litigation, Pollution

I often wonder if anybody actually reads our modest, quasi-weekly offerings. They do! And they respond! To criticize!  I earn my keep being “critiqued” by impatient judges, aggressive opposing counsel and, occasionally, less-than-happy clients, so – challenge accepted. “Critique” One: Lipsky was not Range’s lessor, therefor I know nothing about the case. Surely, this person lives in my house, where I enjoy a… Continue Reading

How Are the Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute and Jade Helm 15 Alike?

Posted in Hydraulic Fracturing, Litigation, Pollution

May a court “draw rational inferences from circumstantial evidence” when determining if a plaintiff  has met its burden in a suit in which the defendant has invoked the Texas Citizens Participation Act . That was the question in In re Lipsky. What is The Anti-SLAPP Statute? The purpose of the TCPA (the “Anti-SLAPP” statute) is to protect citizens from… Continue Reading

5th Circuit Blocks Punitive Damages in Maritime Case

Posted in Litigation

Co-author Shannon Thorne In McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that punitive damages are not available to seamen under the Jones Act or under general maritime law. In those cases, recovery is limited to pecuniary losses. The Drill Barge Accident Estis Well Service owned and operated Estis Rig… Continue Reading

Listen to the Words In the Injunction Battle

Posted in Litigation, operations

If it’s an injunction you want, some words are your friend and others aren’t. For example: “Imminent” = friend “Might” = not friend “Likely” = friend “Could” = not friend “Irreparable” = friend “Money damages” = not friend In Lightning Oil Company v. Anadarko E&P Offshore, LLC, the surface and 1/6 of the minerals of the… Continue Reading

Hydrocarbon Exposure Reconsidered

Posted in Litigation, Pollution

Co-author Maryann Zaki You might recall previous entries (here is one) discussing the $2.9 million Dallas County verdict and judgment in Parr v. Aruba. Not all similar suits have the same result. Michael and Myra Cerny sued Marathon Oil Corp. and Plains Exploration & Production Company, alleging, as in Parr,  private nuisance, negligence, and negligence per se…. Continue Reading

How Much Are Your Trees Worth?

Posted in Construction, Litigation

In Texas, more than your dog. Gilbert Wheeler, Inc. v. Enbridge Pipelines (East Texas), L.P. is good news for landowners. The Texas Supreme recognized the intrinsic-value-of-trees exception to the general rule for damages to real property, so that landowners are compensated for the loss of the ornamental (esthetic) and utilitarian (shade) value that trees bring… Continue Reading

Frac(k)ing, Parr v. Aruba, and Minority Oppression

Posted in Hydraulic Fracturing, Litigation

WHAT IS IT, FRACING OR FRACKING? Having gone back-and-forth over how to spell the process, I’ve figured it out. Why it is “Fracing”: That’s what the engineers call it, and they’re the ones who do it.  Some law firm blogs stand fast with their friends and agree.  It’s a gerund:  A noun formed from a verb by adding “-ing”.  So… Continue Reading

Federal Court: General Partnership Interest Could Be a Security

Posted in Litigation, Regulations

By: Martin P. Averill Are general partnership agreements for oil and gas exploration considered “securities” governed by federal securities regulations? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit  thinks they could be. In SEC v. Jeffory D. Shields and Geodynamics, Inc. et al., the court reversed a trial court ruling which dismissed the SEC’s claims… Continue Reading

Distributions from a Texas Trust Deemed Separate Property

Posted in Litigation

Co-author Alexandra A. Crawley Conventional wisdom is that a spouse’s earnings from separate property are community property. But it’s not that simple. In Benavides v. Mathis a Texas court denied wife Leticia’s claim to one-half of the income derived from minerals held in a trust in which incapacitated husband Carlos was a beneficiary. Years before Carlos and Leticia began their nuptial… Continue Reading

Fear Alone Won’t Get You an Injunction

Posted in Litigation

With apologies for being absent for a week, I ask you to ponder this question when you embark on a fight with the officers and directors of the energy company you own a part of:  How does your subjective fear of harm factor into your right to injunctive relief? Not much, according to a Texas court… Continue Reading

Oral Transfer of an Immovable is Established in Louisiana

Posted in Litigation

Co-author Brooke Sizer In Louisiana, in order to have a valid oral transfer of immovable property under Civil Code Art. 1839, two requirements must be met: Delivery must be actual—physical possession must be in the transferee who claims title, and Recognition by the transferor under oath. In Harter v. Harter, mineral interests (which are immovables) were… Continue Reading

How an Oil and Gas Scammer Avoided Justice

Posted in Litigation

Co-author Brooke Sizer Scoundrels often get away with their crimes by scamming lots of victims for small amounts, so that no single investor can afford to prosecute his claim. Big Rock Investors Association v. Big Rock Petroleum, Inc. was an unsuccessful effort by investors to clear this hurdle. Big Rock Investors Association (BRIA) was created to prosecute claims by 226 investors of… Continue Reading

Deepwater Horizon Settlement Fine-Tuned By Fifth Circuit

Posted in Litigation

By Jim Reed and David Leonard The Fifth Circuit has taken steps to fine-tune the interpretation and implementation of the agreement BP negotiated to settle its massive liabilities arising from the April 2010 oil spill following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. Interpretation of the 1,000- plus-page settlement agreement—which the court described as one of the “largest… Continue Reading

Seismic Map is at the Center of Trade Secret Case

Posted in Litigation

Co-author Brooke Sizer The “tradition” of stealing a prospect generator’s maps – and getting caught at it – is alive and well. Lamont et al v. Vaquillas Energy Lopeno Ltd et al is the second recent Texas case on theft of trade secrets and, like the first, resulted in a large judgment against the alleged thieves. The Players… Continue Reading

The Prospect Generator’s Case, a Second Look

Posted in Contract Disputes, Litigation

There is more to learn from Southwestern Energy Production Co. v. Berry-Helfand and Muncey, discussed in a recent post. Damages – With Room to Run, the Expert Scores. Courts are entitled to be “flexible and imaginative” when determining damages for misappropriation. The methods could include value of the plaintiff’s lost profits, the defendant’s actual profits from the use of… Continue Reading

Hold on to Your Insurance … Federal Court Certifies Deepwater Horizon Questions to Texas Supreme Court

Posted in Contract Disputes, Litigation

By David Leonard and Julie Palmer BP’s woes from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf continue. The federal Fifth Circuit in In re: Deepwater Horizon, withdrew an opinion of a three-judge panel and certified questions for consideration by the Supreme Court of Texas. Resolution of this dispute could significantly impact insurance law in Texas, which… Continue Reading

Prospect Generator is Vindicated

Posted in Contract Disputes, Litigation

The prospect generator’s worst nightmare is presented in Southwestern Energy Production Co. v. Berry-Helfand and Muncey. I will over-simplify the facts: Hefland and Muncey toil for years generating James Lime prospects in a five-county area in East Texas. They show it. Dry holes are drilled. More data is generated. They show it many times again.  Parties who are shown… Continue Reading

Should I Agree to Arbitrate My Contract Dispute?

Posted in Litigation

You are negotiating a master service agreement, exploration agreement, farmout, or other oil-field contract, and the other side proposes that all disputes be resolved by arbitration. Should you agree?  The answer? It depends. I try lawsuits, advocate in arbitrations, and preside as an arbitrator, so I’m often asked this question. The answer isn’t the same in every case…. Continue Reading