Today, countries worldwide are responding to a pandemic of respiratory disease spreading from person-to-person caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). The pandemic poses a serious public health risk, and government response has included closure of schools and businesses, declarations of emergency, and issuance of a variety of “stay home” orders—typically instructing all but “essential personnel” to remain in their residences other than to gather necessaries. These events have dramatically impacted the world economy, and wreaked havoc on the day-to-day functions of individuals and businesses in the United States and elsewhere. Does this pandemic and resultant disruption constitute a force majeure event under Louisiana and Texas law?
The impacts of COVID-19 have rapidly swept across the country and the globe. Coupled with the recent decline in oil and gas prices, many operators are left scrambling in an attempt to navigate unprecedented circumstances. With shutdowns and stay-at-home orders in place and regulatory deadlines looming, Louisiana operators are looking for guidance from regulators on how to proceed.
In Luv n’ care, Ltd. v. Jackel International Ltd., No. 2019-C-00749, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs to address the res nova issue of whether the “punishment for contempt of court” statute, La. R.S. 13:4611, authorizes the imposition of attorney fees against a party not adjudged guilty of contempt. In the district court, Plaintiff, Luv n’ care, Ltd. (“LNC”), brought a contempt proceeding against defendants, Jackel International Ltd., et al. (“Jackel”), for allegedly violating a permanent injunction previously entered in LNC’s favor. While LNC was unsuccessful on its motion for contempt, the district court not only denied the motion, but also awarded a substantial attorney fee award to Jackel as the “prevailing party in a contempt proceeding” based on the recently amended language of La. R.S. 13:4611(1)(g).
In May 2018, oil and gas industry defendants removed a docket of 42 cases alleging violations of Louisiana’s coastal zone management laws to federal court in the Eastern and Western Districts of Louisiana (“CZM cases”). One year later, the Eastern District granted motions to remand filed by Plaquemines Parish and the State of Louisiana in Parish of Plaquemines v. Riverwood Production Company, et al. (“Riverwood”), No. 18-5217, 2019 WL 2271118 (E.D. La. May 28, 2019). The Western District recently joined the Eastern District and granted similar remand motions filed by Cameron Parish and the State of Louisiana in Parish of Cameron, et al. v. Auster Oil & Gas Incorporated, et al. (“Auster”), No. 18-677, 2019 WL 4734394 (W.D. La. Sept. 26, 2019), —F. Supp. 3d—. Although there are procedural differences between Riverwood and Auster, both district courts found no federal officer or federal question jurisdiction over the CZM cases. The Fifth Circuit is poised to resolve these jurisdictional issues in the upcoming year. …
Continue Reading Second Remand Order in Coastal Zone Management Cases Pending Before Fifth Circuit
When is a case removable to federal court? The general rule is that removability is determined at the time a case is filed. One exception is the so-called “voluntary-involuntary” rule, which permits removal only when the plaintiff’s voluntary action in state court creates federal jurisdiction. The textbook example is the voluntary dismissal of a non-diverse defendant who settled with the plaintiff. The textbook counterexample is when the non-diverse defendant is dismissed via contested motion—an involuntary dismissal. In Hoyt v. The Lane Construction Corporation, 927 F.3d 287 (5th Cir. 2019), the Fifth Circuit blurred the line between these categories and expanded the cases that can be removed to federal court.
Liskow & Lewis’ Shannon Holtzman, James Brown, and A’Dair Flynt recently secured several key rulings in a putative class action, successfully opposing a complex remand motion under the Tax Injunction Act and the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) and obtaining a dismissal with prejudice of the claims against Liskow’s clients in Robert J. Caluda, APLC, et al v. The City of New Orleans, Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, L.L.P, and United Governmental Services of Louisiana, Inc., No. 19-2497, 2019 WL 3283138, 2019 WL 3291014 (E.D. La. July 22, 2019).
In a decision that could have far-reaching implications, the United States Supreme Court issued a June 10 opinion holding that California’s wage-and-hour laws do not apply to workers on oil and gas platforms located in open water on the Outer Continental Shelf. The plaintiffs in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, were offshore rig workers who filed a class action asserting that their employer violated California’s minimum wage and overtime laws by failing to pay them for stand-by time while they were on the drilling platform. Both parties agreed that the platforms were governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), but they disagreed regarding whether the California’s wage-and-hour laws were incorporated into OCSLA and therefore applicable to workers on the platform.…
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds State Wage and Hour Laws are Inapplicable to Offshore Drilling Platforms
On May 9, 2019, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an important opinion restricting application of the collateral source rule in personal injury lawsuits. In Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC, et al., 2018-CC-0735 (La. 5/8/19), the Court held the collateral source rule inapplicable to medical expenses charged above the amount actually paid by a workers’ compensation insurer pursuant to the workers’ compensation medical fee schedule.
In a victory for the oil and gas industry, the Third Circuit rendered a decision rejecting attempts by the Louisiana Department of Revenue to impose severance taxes on crude oil production based on index pricing. The Third Circuit reaffirmed that severance taxes should be based on the “gross proceeds” obtained in an arm’s length sale at the lease. The Department had sought additional severance taxes from numerous Louisiana producers that sold crude oil in arm’s length sales at the lease. The contracts provided that the sales price of the crude oil was based on index pricing, less an amount sometimes designated as a “transportation differential” or simply as a deduction. The Department argued that this “differential” or deduction must be “disallowed” when computing severance taxes, effectively imposing severance taxes on the index pricing. The Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, faced with numerous cases raising this same issue, heard a “test case” involving Avanti Exploration, LLC. The BTA held that the Department’s theories were invalid, and severance tax properly was based on the actual “gross receipts” received by the producer in an arm’s length sale. In a decision issued on April 17, 2019, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that, pursuant to the Louisiana Constitution, the severance tax statutes, and the Department regulations, in the absence of any “posted field price,” severance taxes must be based on the actual “gross receipts” received by the producer in an arm’s length sale at the lease.
On Friday, March 29, 2019, the City of New Orleans filed a lawsuit in Civil District Court against eleven oil and gas companies seeking damages for alleged harm to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Introducing its lawsuit with statements that “New Orleans is imperiled” and its “people are in danger,” the City contends that the defendants’ failure to maintain access canals, spoil banks, and earthen pits created in the course of exploration and production has destroyed the coastal zone. The City’s allegations mirror those levied in recent years by the parishes of Plaquemines, Jefferson, and St. Bernard, among others: that the defendants’ activities constitute coastal “uses” under the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act (“SLCRMA”) and that they violate coastal use permits issued pursuant to that statute. The City has requested a trial by jury, from which it seeks damages, “restoration costs,” restoration of “disturbed areas,” sanctions, costs, attorneys’ fees, and/or declaratory and injunctive relief.…
Continue Reading City of New Orleans Sues Oil and Gas Companies for Allegedly Damaging Coastal Wetlands