Scenes from the trial lawyer’s conference room:

Client: “Lookee here! This paragraph says we win!”

Lawyer: Yes, but what about all the other paragraphs?”

“Those don’t matter.”

Why is that?”

“Because they don’t help us. Did you graduate from law school?”

But the court will harmonize all the provisions in the document.”

“If I want harmony I’ll go with the Everlys. If you’re afraid of a fight, I’ll find me a lawyer with a backbone. I’m thinking the tough, smart lawyer. That one that’s always on TV.”

and:

Client: “@*^& the words. I’ll tell ’em what the deal really was.”

(Repeat client disappointment)

In XTO Energy v. EOG Resources, a title dispute over the mineral estate in 1,653 acres in Atascosa and McMullen counties, Texas, the loser tried both, to no avail. Continue Reading Foreclosure Included the Minerals Because the Documents Said So

Co-author Chance Decker

The ruling from the Supreme Court of Texas in JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., et al v. Orca Assets, G.P., L.L.C. was foreseeable. Experienced energy professionals who pass on the opportunity to examine title for themselves are not sympathetic plaintiffs in a suit claiming reliance on oral statements of the lessor.

How did this happen?  Continue Reading Fraud Claim Rejected for Unreasonable Reliance

Let’s get right to the takeaway: Despite the humble hourly rate operators are typically willing to fork over for title examination, the job isn’t easy and you’d better put your trust in a practitioner with expertise, patience, and an eye for detail.

It took a court of appeal two tries to get this one right, after being enlightened by an aggrieved party. These errors are typically discovered in the real life of a producer when an aggrieved royalty owner says you’ve overpaid somebody else. Let’s hope the well is still producing when they bring the matter to your attention. Continue Reading Mineral Title Examination – It’s Not Easy  

Chauvin v. Shell Oil Company et al is the pot full of legal unpleasantness that can be stirred up by landmen trying to buy easements, leases, and the like.

A number of plaintiffs – descendants of grantors of two parcels of land in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana – were contacted by pipeline companies seeking servitudes. Apparently believing that betting on litigation offered a better return than the trifecta at the Fairgrounds, the descendants sued Shell and several pipeline companies holding servitudes from Shell for trespass. In the end, the court denied the plaintiff’s claims; they couldn’t carry their burden to prove their ownership of the property. Continue Reading Trespass Plaintiff: First, Prove Your Ownership

Co-author Chance Decker

Gloria’s Ranch v. Tauren et al – the Louisiana lenders’ bad dream

Anyone seeking stability in the law governing E&P activities in Louisiana will view the lower court decision as a grave error that must be corrected. Virtually every mortgage provides safeguards to protect collateral and manage lenders’ risk. The court of appeal reasoned that because of those provisions, the lender controlled the ability of the borrower to execute a release of a mineral lease, resulting in solidary liability when the borrower-lessee failed to release its lease. Continue Reading An Oil and Gas Case to Expect From Louisiana, and Another From Texas

To begin, choose from these candidates for the all-world spendthrift hall of fame:

  • Imelda Marcos.
  • Every Congress since you and I were little babies.
  • Any MLB team that would trade for Giancarlo Stanton.
  • All Power Five football schools not named Vanderbilt.
  • The eventual winner of the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes.
  • Robert Baratheon, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.

In Bradley v. Shaffer, Darrell, a beneficiary of a mineral trust established by his grandparents, purported to convey to Bradley his mineral interests that were subject to the trust and any interest held in trust that he might acquire in the future. The trustees sued, alleging that Darrell had no authority to convey his beneficial interest. Bradley argued that an extension of the trust violated the Rule Against Perpetuities.  Spoiler: It didn’t.

A primer on Texas trust law … who owns what and other rules:

Continue Reading Mineral Conveyance Thwarted by a Spendthrift Provision

Conoco Phillips Company v. Ramirez et al is a helpful reminder when preparing a document transferring title:

  • “Family vernacular” is a great way to communicate in wedding toasts and funeral eulogies, not so much in land conveyances.
  • Absent an express reservation, a conveyance of land includes both the surface and the underlying minerals.
  • When there is a claim of ambiguity, extrinsic evidence may not be used to create doubt as to the plain meaning of the words.

Continue Reading Informal Description Dooms Oil and Gas Leases

Co-author Chance Decker

You are selling properties. The buyer thinks you own the deep rights but you know your long-time partner owns them. You attend the closing. You don’t tell the buyer that he’s got the ownership wrong. You are protected by a contract. Do you fess up? What if it means $6.8 million?

In Freeman, et al v. Harleton Oil & Gas Chesapeake agreed to buy three-year term assignments of Buffco’s and Twin Eagle Resources’ interest in 14,000 acres in East Texas for $232 million. Continue Reading An Oil Patch Morality Play – Part 1

shysterAccording to Mr. Bumble, the law is an ass. I disagree (Know a lawyer who’s an ass? That’s another conversation). In Davis v. Mueller the law was not an ass, per se, but as applied by the Texas Supreme Court it showed little mercy.

A refresher on conveyances

  • According to the Statute of Frauds, a writing conveying real property must furnish within itself, or by reference to some other existing writing, the means or data by which the land to be conveyed may be identified with reasonable certainty.
  • A Mother Hubbard clause is a catchall in a deed to capture small, overlooked, or incorrectly described interests.
  • A Mother Hubbard clause is not effective to convey a significant property interest not adequately described in the deed.
  • In Texas a general conveyance of all of a grantor’s property in a geographic area is given effect.

Continue Reading Texas Mineral Deeds Survive the Statute of Frauds