Devon Energy Production Company, L.P. v. Sheppard is a royalty dispute between several lessees, Devon Energy Production Co., L.P., et. al., and several lessors, Michael A. Sheppard, et. al., concerning a novel royalty term that may have a huge impact on the way oil and gas royalties are paid in the future.  See 13-19-00036-CV, 2020 WL 6164467, at *12 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi Oct. 22, 2020, pet. filed).  The novel term, referred to as an “add-back” or “add-to-proceeds” provision, requires any deductions to the sale of production to be added back to the proceeds in order to determine the appropriate royalty base.  The lessors argue that under this term, the deductions in the lessees’ sales contracts attributable to the buyers’ post-transfer costs must be added to the gross proceeds in order to establish a royalty base above the gross proceeds.  The lessees disagree, countering that the clear intent of the provision is merely to prohibit the deduction of their own post-production costs, not the post-transfer costs of the buyers.  The lessors won in the trial court; the court of appeals affirmed.  Now the case is before the Texas Supreme Court, with a recently submitted amicus brief containing the argument that could turn the tides back in the lessees’ favor.
Continue Reading New Developments in Shocking Case Before the Texas Supreme Court Regarding Construction of Novel Oil & Gas Royalty Term

The Texas Supreme Court recently released its anticipated opinion in Eagle Oil & Gas Co. v. TRO-X, L.P., 18-0983, 2021 WL 1045723, at *1 (Tex. Mar. 19, 2021) (“Eagle II”).  The Eagle II case is the second case that arose between TRO-X, L.P. (“TRO-X”) and Eagle Oil & Gas Co. (“Eagle”) regarding their agreement to jointly acquire and sell oil and gas leases.  In the first, Eagle Oil & Gas Co. v. TRO-X, L.P., 416 S.W.3d 137, 149 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2013, pet. denied) (“Eagle I”), TRO-X alleged that Eagle deprived TRO-X of its right to acquire certain mineral interests upon the sale of several leases in violation of their agreement.  TRO-X lost that suit on appeal when the court of appeals found that TRO-X held equitable title to those interests and thus was not deprived of them.  In Eagle II, TRO-X alleged that Eagle failed to pay TRO-X its share of income generated from production on the equitable interests.  In response, Eagle asserted several affirmative defenses—res judicata (claim preclusion), the statute of limitations, and waiver—in a motion for summary judgment.  The trial court granted the motion, the court of appeals reversed, and the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, finding that Eagle did not conclusively establish any of its affirmative defenses.
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Update: TRO-X Lives to Fight Another Day in Contractual Dispute over Share of Income on Production from Equitable Interests

Free-Use Clause and Further Interprets Conflicting Royalty Clause Provisions

The Texas Supreme Court recently issued its anticipated decision in BlueStone Natural Resources II, LLC v. Randle, affirming in part and reversing in part the lower court’s ruling.  No. 19-0459, 2021 WL 936175 (Tex. Mar. 12, 2021).  The Court (1) affirmed that the lower court

The Texas Supreme Court recently issued its anticipated decision in BlueStone Natural Resources II, LLC v. Randle, affirming in part and reversing in part the lower court’s ruling.  No. 19-0459, 2021 WL 936175 (Tex. Mar. 12, 2021).  The Court (1) affirmed that the lower court correctly concluded the oil and gas lease at issue explicitly resolved conflicting royalty provisions in favor of a gross-proceeds calculation; and (2) affirmed the lower court’s interpretation regarding application of the lease’s free-use clause, but remanded the case to recalculate the amount awarded to the royalty owners.
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Update: The Court Decides Issue of First Impression Related to the Scope of an Oil and Gas Lease’s Free-Use Clause and Further Interprets Conflicting Royalty Clause Provisions

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
Continue Reading Louisiana Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Royalty and Other Claims Based Upon Prescription

With the prevalence of cases involving royalty disputes in Texas, the state’s Supreme Court has never hesitated to address these issues.  But the Court’s sporadic holdings regarding royalty clauses, each so specific to the particular language of the lease, have left lessees on unsteady footing.  BlueStone primes the Court to resolve a Texas appellate court split regarding whether a lease provision requiring royalties to be paid based on “gross” profits or value received from the sale of oil and gas production nullifies an “at the well” valuation point elsewhere in a lease.
Continue Reading Trudging the Rocky Landscape of Royalty Dispute Litigation with the Texas Supreme Court Yet Again in BlueStone

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s reversal of Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc., hands a victory to financiers of oil and gas operations and settles a long-running controversy over the amount of damages available for failure to pay mineral royalties.

The Gloria’s Ranch trial court held two mineral lessees and a mortgagee (Wells Fargo) solidarily liable for more than $20 million in damages resulting from failure to release a mineral lease in North Louisiana.  The Second Circuit affirmed the finding of solidarity on the basis that Wells Fargo became an owner of the mineral lease because it “controlled the bundle of rights that make up ownership, i.e., the rights to use, enjoy, and dispose of the lease.” However, a vigorous dissent warned that the majority’s “control theory” to impose solidarity between a mortgagee and a mineral lessee could have “[d]evastating economic repercussions” for the lending industry, and “[s]erious and harmful impact on the oil and gas industry.”


Continue Reading Louisiana Supreme Court’s reversal of Gloria’s Ranch clarifies calculation of damages for unpaid mineral royalties, provides relief for holders of security interests in mineral rights

On Friday, December 15, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted three separate writ applications filed by each of the defendants in Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc.  These applications sought review of the Louisiana Second Circuit’s June 2, 2017 decision affirming the trial court’s ruling that Wells Fargo, a mortgage lender with a security interest in a mineral lease, was solidarily liable with its borrowers (the mineral lessees) for a breach of the mineral lessees’ contractual and statutory obligations to produce in paying quantities, pay royalties, and respond to the mineral lessor’s demands regarding those obligations. 
Continue Reading Louisiana Supreme Court Grants Writs from Second Circuit Decision Finding Holder of Mortgage Encumbering a Mineral Lease Solidarily Liable with Mineral Lessees for Damages Resulting from the Mineral Lessees’ Breach of Contractual and Statutory Obligations

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

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