U.S. Fifth Circuit Greenlights Contribution Action for Purely Economic Damages Under Oil Pollution Act (OPA)

In Settoon Towing, L.L.C. v. Marquette Transportation Company, L.L.C., No. 16-30459 (5th Cir. Jun. 9, 2017), the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held for the first time that a Responsible Party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) has a statutory claim for contribution to recover purely economic damages from a partially liable third party.

Settoon arose out of a February 2014 collision on the Mississippi River near Convent, Louisiana.  A tug owned by Marquette collided with an oil-carrying barge owned by Settoon as the Marquette tug attempted to overtake the Settoon flotilla.  As a result of the collision, approximately 750 barrels of light crude oil discharged into the river. Continue Reading

Louisiana Second Circuit Finds Holder of Mortgage Encumbering a Mineral Lease Solidarily Liable with Mineral Lessees for Damages Under the Louisiana Mineral Code

In Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc., the Louisiana Second Circuit upheld a trial court’s ruling that the holder of a security interest in mineral leases was solidarily liable for damages under the Louisiana Mineral Code stemming from its mineral lessees/mortgagors’ actions.[1] In the case, a landowner sued its mineral lessees for: (1) failure to provide a recordable act evidencing the expiration of a mineral lease under Mineral Code articles 206-209 and (2) failure to pay royalties under Mineral Code articles 137-140.[2] Continue Reading

Louisiana Second Circuit Provides Clarity on Production in Paying Quantities and Affirms Lease Cancellation Under Mineral Code Article 140 for Failure to Pay Royalties

On June 2, 2017 the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court’s judgment cancelling a mineral lease under Mineral Code article 140 and provided further clarity on a production in paying quantities analysis under Louisiana Mineral Code article 124.[1]  The dispute in Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc., arose from a 2004 mineral lease covering nearly 1,400 acres in Sections 9, 10, 15, 16, and 21, Township 15 North, Range 15 West, in Caddo Parish.[2]  The lease was granted by Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. (“Gloria’s Ranch”) to Tauren Exploration, Inc. (“Tauren”) and contained a three year primary term as well as a horizontal and vertical Pugh clause.[3]  Tauren subsequently assigned a 49% interest in the lease to Cubic Energy, Inc. (“Cubic”).[4] Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Adopts Broad Definition of “Good Faith” for Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Claims

On June 1, 2017, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Borcik v. Crosby Tugs, L.L.C. applied a broad definition of the intent required of a plaintiff under the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Act.  In doing so, both the Fifth Circuit and the Louisiana Supreme Court apply a more plaintiff friendly standard to claims of environmental whistleblowers. Continue Reading

Often Overlooked Sublease Issues For Office Tenants

Office spaceWith oil prices still far below their highs of a few years ago, many energy companies—some of which expanded rapidly when oil was north of $100 a barrel—now find themselves with more office space than they can reasonably use (or even afford).  In order to mitigate their lease exposure, these companies are looking to sublease a portion of their office space.

As of Q1 2017, there are approximately 10.8 million square feet of office space available for sublease in the Greater Houston area.  Of that total, approximately forty-two percent (42%) is located in West Houston, including in the Energy Corridor (20%), Westchase (12%) and West Belt (7%) markets.[1] Continue Reading

Casing Controversy: Does the Comparative Fault Codal Article Cover Contract Claims?

In Justiss Oil Company, Inc. v. Oil Country Tubular Corp., et al, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal joined its sister circuit –the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, in finding that La. Civ. Code art. 2323 applies only to actions sounding in tort – not to actions in contract, such as redhibition.  In doing so, the Third Circuit created an issue ripe for Louisiana Supreme Court decision. Continue Reading

United States Supreme Court Limits Forums Available to Railroad Workers

The United States Supreme Court, in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell (May 30, 2017), declined to allow a personal injury plaintiff to sue a railroad company in a state in which the railroad does business but is not incorporated or headquartered.  In BNSF Railway Co., two plaintiffs brought suit for injuries in Montana “although the injured workers did not reside in Montana, nor were they injured there.”  The plaintiffs claimed that the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), which allows railroad workers to sue their employers for personal injuries, created a jurisdictional exception to recent cases that held that a corporation may be sued only in a state that has a connection to the injury or in the state in which the corporation is incorporated or maintains its headquarters, absent exceptional circumstances.  Continue Reading

A Key Resource For Structuring Oil & Gas Joint Operations

John Bradford’s article “Tax Planning for Oil and Gas Joint Operations”, originally prepared for the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation’s 2016 Special Institute on Joint Operations and the New AAPL Form 610-2015 Model Form Joint Operating Agreement, has been selected for publication by the University of North Texas Institute of Petroleum Accounting in its Petroleum Accounting and Financial Management Journal.  Part 1 of the article appears in the 2017 Spring, volume 36, no. 1 edition, while part 2 will follow in the 2017 Summer edition. Continue Reading

Thinking About Improving Your Louisiana Facility? Follow These Steps or Risk Unlimited Lien Liability Under Louisiana’s Private Works Act

If a subcontractor or supplier on a Louisiana construction project is not paid in full, it can file a lien against the owner’s property and sue the owner for payment even though it did not contract with the owner and even if the owner has fully paid the general contractor.  This can occur on any project involving any physical change to real property in Louisiana.  See La. Rev. Stat. §  9:4808(A). Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Affirms Application of the Subsequent Purchaser Doctrine in Oilfield Contamination Case, Recognizes “Clear Consensus” Among Louisiana Appellate Courts, and Declines Certification to the Louisiana Supreme Court

In Guilbeau v. Hess Corporation, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the application of Louisiana’s subsequent purchaser doctrine to bar a plaintiff’s claims for property damage resulting from alleged oilfield contamination that occurred prior to his purchase of the property.  The court specifically rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to characterize the multitude of relevant Louisiana appellate court rulings as a “mishmash of appellate jurisprudence,” noting instead that “a clear consensus has emerged among all Louisiana appellate courts that have considered the issue.” Continue Reading

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