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

Co-author Jamie Mills*

Is it worth spending extra dollars, days, and windshield time to discover what mischief your oil and gas operator might be making on your property? The landowner-plaintiffs in Mustafa v. Americo Energy would certainly say so.

The “discovery rule” offered them no help in their suit against their lessee for negligence when visible soil contamination occurred over two years before suit and was filed and the landowners had not visited the property in over six years. The two-year statute of limitations barred the landowners’ claim.
Continue Reading Landowners Vanquished by the Discovery Rule

Lollygag: To fool around and waste time; dawdle.  As in, “I lollygagged for 15 years after filing my suit and obtained a less-than-optimal result.”

Gramwich Oil and Gas Corporation et al v. Meng addressed claims for lease termination, repudiation, laches, cessation of production, and failure to produce in paying quantities. The facts are dense and the savings clause at issue is sui generis, so I won’t go into lots of detail. The takeaway: If you have a claim, prosecute it.

The facts
Continue Reading Lessor Prevails in Texas Lease Termination Dispute

In Plaquemines Parish et al. v. Chevron et al., the U. S. Fifth Circuit has ruled on whether 42 suits brought by six parishes and the Louisiana Attorney General against a number of oil companies belongs in federal court or state court. The allegations are that the companies’ operations over the years  essentially destroyed the Louisiana coastal marshes. Billions of dollars are at stake. The immediate issue was whether the defendants’ removal was timely. They were, the result of which is that the cases are likely to remain in federal court.

A short history
Continue Reading Louisiana Coastal Zone Litigation Likely to Remain in Federal Court