In a straightforward application of Louisiana’s prescriptive principles, the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit affirmed the trial court’s grant of exceptions of prescription, finding plaintiff’s claims for fraud, under the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act (LUTPA), and for unpaid royalties all prescribed in Karen May v. The Succession of Mayo Romero

In 2006, a Petition to Open Succession with Administration was filed, which sought to open the succession of petitioners ancestors’ in title with administration due to various legal issues, including “oil & gas royalty claims,” because, “Decedents owned property…wherein oil & gas was extracted by various companies and fraudulently paid to other parties.”  The petitioners in the 2006 proceeding stated that they believed it was necessary for the succession to hire counsel to investigate and litigate these claims.

Despite the successful opening of the succession with administration in 2006, the Succession did not file suit against Defendants, including adjacent landowners and various oil and gas companies, for unpaid royalties, fraud and violations of LUTPA until 2018.  In response to the Succession’s petition, Defendants therefore filed exceptions of prescription, claiming that the petition filed in the succession proceedings clearly demonstrated the Succession’s knowledge of the claims asserted against them.  At the hearing on the exception, the trial court received evidence and heard testimony from the administratrix of the succession. The trial court granted the Defendants’ exceptions of prescription and the Succession appealed.

The Louisiana Third Circuit affirmed, relying on bedrock principles of prescription under Louisiana law and refusing to apply exceptions to the running of prescription under Appellant’s theory of contra non valentem in so doing.  The court reasoned that, while contra non valentem may suspend the running of prescription in various instances, such as when the defendants themselves prevent the plaintiff from availing himself of his cause of action by concealing the claims, or when the cause of action is not known or reasonably knowable (the “discovery” rule), such limited exceptions did not apply to the instant case.   First, the Appellant did not present any facts or evidence of Defendants’ alleged concealment of the claims, and even if Defendants did conceal the claims, the concealment ended by 2006, when the Petition to Open Succession with Administration was filed demonstrating knowledge of these potential claims.  Second, the appellate court found that the discovery rule did not suspend the running of prescription.  The appellate court rejected the Succession’s argument that, since the administratrix did not personally learn about oil and gas activity on the property until 2017, the claims were timely, recognizing that her personal knowledge was irrelevant since she was appearing in a representative capacity only.   Moreover, as the petition in the 2006 succession proceedings demonstrated that the Succession was well aware of its potential claims back in 2006, and more than 12 years had passed between the pleading demonstrating this knowledge and the 2018 suit against Defendants—ample time to conduct discovery to further illuminate its claims.

A copy of the Third Circuit’s decision can be found here.  Liskow & Lewis attorneys Kelly Becker, Kathryn Gonski, and Trinity Morale represented Defendants Chevron USA, Inc. and Texaco, Inc. before the trial and appellate courts. For more information on the decision, please contact Kelly Becker, Kathryn Gonski, Trinity Morale, or Erin Bambrick.

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Photo of Erin Bambrick Erin Bambrick

Erin Bambrick is an environmental lawyer focused on legacy and coastal land loss litigation, as well as matters involving land contamination and personal injury toxic tort exposure from Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM). Erin’s work on the ground floor of government-initiated coastal erosion…

Erin Bambrick is an environmental lawyer focused on legacy and coastal land loss litigation, as well as matters involving land contamination and personal injury toxic tort exposure from Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM). Erin’s work on the ground floor of government-initiated coastal erosion lawsuits in Louisiana has included work with experts and intensive scientific, factual, and legal case development.

Photo of Kelly Brechtel Becker Kelly Brechtel Becker

Kelly Becker is a litigator whose appellate practice regularly includes cases before the Louisiana courts of appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. Her practice focuses on complex litigation, including environmental, energy, and commercial matters.  Based…

Kelly Becker is a litigator whose appellate practice regularly includes cases before the Louisiana courts of appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. Her practice focuses on complex litigation, including environmental, energy, and commercial matters.  Based on her experience, Kelly is frequently retained to write amicus briefs on behalf of businesses and trade organizations in matters of industry-wide significance. Kelly is certified by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization as an Appellate Practice Specialist. She is one of only thirteen lawyers in the state of Louisiana with this designation.

Photo of Kathryn Zainey Gonski Kathryn Zainey Gonski

Kathryn Gonski is a litigator whose appellate practice regularly includes cases before the Louisiana courts of appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.  Her practice focuses on complex litigation, including environmental, energy, commercial, and oil and…

Kathryn Gonski is a litigator whose appellate practice regularly includes cases before the Louisiana courts of appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.  Her practice focuses on complex litigation, including environmental, energy, commercial, and oil and gas matters.  Based on her experience, Kathryn is also frequently retained to write amicus briefs on behalf of businesses and trade organizations in matters of industry-wide significance.

Photo of Trinity Morale Trinity Morale

Trinity is an energy litigator in the firm’s New Orleans office.  She has experience representing clients in contract disputes, tort claims, products liability, and oil and gas disputes. She also has experience with First Amendment issues, securities fraud, and trademark infringement.  She has…

Trinity is an energy litigator in the firm’s New Orleans office.  She has experience representing clients in contract disputes, tort claims, products liability, and oil and gas disputes. She also has experience with First Amendment issues, securities fraud, and trademark infringement.  She has been recognized for her practice by The National Black Lawyers’ organization as a National Black Lawyer Top 40 Under 40.

Photo of Elizabeth S. Wheeler Elizabeth S. Wheeler

Ms. Wheeler is a shareholder in the firm’s New Orleans office. Her practice is focused on a range of complex litigation matters, including environmental law and toxic tort litigation, oil and gas disputes, insurance disputes, commercial litigation, and construction contract litigation. She has…

Ms. Wheeler is a shareholder in the firm’s New Orleans office. Her practice is focused on a range of complex litigation matters, including environmental law and toxic tort litigation, oil and gas disputes, insurance disputes, commercial litigation, and construction contract litigation. She has represented clients in defending toxic tort and chemical exposure proceedings, oil and gas property litigation, class action breach of contract claims, and large construction disputes, including government contract disputes.