Co-author Justin Cowan

Just because parties agree that disputes over a contract will be subject to binding arbitration doesn’t mean there won’t be wrestling at the courthouse beforehand. In LLOG Exploration Offshore, LLC v. Samson Contour Energy E&P, LLC, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana resolved a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss a lawsuit by staying the litigation pending the outcome of the arbitration but not dismissing the case.
Continue Reading Arbitration Over Offshore Leases Does Not Warrant Lawsuit Dismissal

At issue in RKI Exploration and Production LLC v. AmeriFlow Energy Services LLC and Crescent Services, LLC. were two Master Service Agreements.  RKI was the operator of a well in Loving County; AmeriFlow and Crescent were contractors. A sand separator exploded at the well site injuring or killing three workers who worked for another subcontractor. The result was three suits in New Mexico and a mazelike series of indemnity demands, denials, settlements, and judgments, including settlement of one death case for $9.1 million.

To preserve your patience, and mine, let’s focus on the takeaways from this 72-page behemoth of an opinion based on a 10,000-page record.

Grammar lessons

The court defined a phrase common to Master Service Agreements: “arising in connection herewith”. Indemnitees AmeriFlow and Crescent argued that the phrase “encompasses all activities reasonably incident to or anticipated by the principal activity of the MSA, which was oil well operation”. No, it doesn’t. The court determined that the phrase requires a causal connection between the MSA and the claims for which the indemnitee sought indemnity. The scope of work envisioned in the MSA was defined by work orders, and the indemnity could go no further than the scope of work.
Continue Reading Texas Court Addresses MSA Indemnity Obligations

Federal Insurance Company et al v. Select Energy Services LLC and Exco et al. is a reminder for negotiators of indemnity and defense obligations in oilfield contracts that choice of law is important. Ignore it when drafting and it will be too late when litigating.

The events

Three workers were injured on an Exco drilling rig in DeSoto Parish. Two sued in Texas, one sued in Louisiana. In the Texas suit Exco demanded that Select indemnify and defend Exco under the parties’ service agreement; Select did, and paid $31MM to settle. In the Louisiana suit the roles were reversed. Exco (through Federal) agreed to defend Select. Exco then withdrew its defense and alleged that the indemnity provision was unenforceable because it contravened La. R.S. 9:2780 the Louisiana Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Act.  Select filed a reconventional demand to recover the amount of the Texas settlement.

The choice of law provision called for Texas law to apply without regard to conflict of laws provisions. In case a court might choose to apply the Louisiana Act, there was a substitute indemnity provision: The indemnity and insurance obligations are separate and apart from each other. The insurance obligation would support, but not in any way limit, the defense and indemnity obligations set forth in the agreement.

The Louisiana and Texas Acts

The Louisiana Act was an attempt to avoid adhesionary contracts in which, due to unequal bargaining power, a contractor would have no choice but to agree to indemnify the oil company lest they risk losing the contract. The Act declares null and void any provision in any agreement which requires defense and/or indemnification where there is negligence or fault on the part of the indemnitee or an independent contractor who is directly responsible. If Louisiana law applied, the statute would invalidate Exco’s defense and indemnity obligations to Select.

On the other hand, the Texas Act generally invalidates oilfield indemnity agreements but allows enforcement of mutual indemnity obligations limited to the scope and amount of contractual indemnity insurance each party as indemnitor has agreed to provide to the other as indemnitee. Thus, a mutual obligation is enforceable but limited to the extent of coverage limits of contractual indemnity insurance.

The insurance provided by the parties in the contract brought the mutual indemnity agreement within the exception.
Continue Reading Louisiana Court Considers Texas and Louisiana Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Acts

Co-author Brittany Blakey

Let’s begin with a question: Master service agreements (“MSA’s” in the trade), once agreed upon, often remain in force for years. As time passes and circumstances change, the parties amend, sometimes losing sight of the original details. Was Stingray Pressure Pumping, LLC v. In re Gulfport Energy Corporation the result of forgetfulness