On June 30, 2021, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an opinion redefining the nature of available damages and the “actual, statutorily permitted role of the jury in Act 312 remediation lawsuits.” The “LL&E II” decision finds that Act 312 charges the court, not the jury, to determine the funding needed to remediate property to government standards. If (and only if) an express contractual provision requires greater remediation than government standards, a jury may consider and award such “excess remediation” damages. State of Louisiana v. Louisiana Land and Exploration Co., 2020-00685 (La. 6/30/2021); — So. 3d — (“LL&E II”).[1]

Continue Reading Overturning 8 Years of “Palpable Error,” The Louisiana Supreme Court Limits Damages Available to Landowners in Oilfield Legacy Litigation

The jurisdictional contest over the proper forum for Louisiana’s sprawling coastal land loss litigation continues as petitions for panel and en banc rehearings on federal jurisdiction pend before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ strident effort to return to the state courts, located in the coastal Parishes whose governments have sued the industry, has yielded an opinion involving the jurisdiction of federal district courts during an appeal.
Continue Reading Louisiana’s Coastal Land Loss Litigation Produces Opinion of Interest to Appellate Practitioners in Federal Court

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?


Continue Reading COVID-19 as a Force Majeure? The Texas and Louisiana Perspectives

On November 8, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals added to the relatively sparse body of appellate rulings in pipeline expropriation matters. In an unpublished opinion, the court affirmed that landowners whose property is expropriated must prove their entitlement to severance damages to a “legal certainty.”

Under Louisiana law, owners of expropriated property can seek just compensation for the property taken. In addition, landowners can seek “severance damages” above and beyond the value of the expropriated property when the landowner has been deprived of the full potential of future development of the property due to the taking.

In Enterprise Products Operating, LLC, v. Southwood Terminal, L.L.C., Enterprise expropriated part of a large tract of undeveloped riverfront property for an NGL pipeline. The pipeline would then cross the Mississippi River, burrowing more than 100 feet below the riverbed.

At trial, the landowner sought millions in severance damages, arguing that the pipeline’s presence beneath the batture of the property (the land between the low-water level of the river and the levee) destroyed the property’s potential future use an industrial site with a dock to provide river access. However, Enterprise presented engineering testimony that the pipeline would not interfere with any potential dock.
Continue Reading Expropriation ruling explains landowner’s burden to prove severance damages to a “legal certainty.”

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

A recent decision from the Eastern District of Louisiana provides a mixed bag for pipeline companies or others whose operations involve canals.  Significantly, the decision from Judge Milazzo holds that during the existence of a right-of-way/servitude, Louisiana servitude law imposes a continuing duty to prevent canals from expanding and widening over time, unless unambiguous contractual language allows otherwise.
Continue Reading Federal Court Finds A Continuing Duty Under Louisiana Law To Prevent The Erosion of Pipeline Canals

In Gloria’s Ranch, L.L.C. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc., the Louisiana Second Circuit upheld a 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.  A detailed summary of that decision is available here.
Continue Reading Strong Dissent Warns of “Devastating Economic Repercussions” of Second Circuit’s Decision in Oil & Gas Case

A July 3, 2017 ruling from the 17th Judicial District establishes that a mineral servitude owner’s obligation under Mineral Code article 22 “to restore the surface to its original condition” means the condition of the property at the creation of the servitude—and not the property’s pristine, pre-operation condition.  The court’s commonsense ruling in Sterling Sugars v. Amerada Hess Corporation, No. 100091 (17th JDC) appears to be the first time a state court has directly interpreted the meaning of the phrase “original condition” in the Article 22 context.
Continue Reading Trial Court Rules that Article 22’s “Original Condition” Refers to Property’s Condition at the Creation of a Mineral Servitude

The U.S. Fifth Circuit recently dismissed a sweeping environmental lawsuit filed by a Louisiana Levee Board against 97 oil and gas companies alleging coastal land loss. Read our case summary.
Continue Reading U.S. Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Levee Board’s Lawsuit Against 97 Oil and Gas Companies

The first of 40 coastal permitting lawsuits to proceed to disposition has been dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

In a ruling released today, Judge Enright of the 24th JDC for Jefferson Parish dismissed The Parish of Jefferson v. Atlantic Richfield Company, finding that the statutory scheme at issue provided administrative channels to investigate and resolve alleged permit violations, and thus those remedies must be exhausted before the plaintiffs could pursue civil damages through the courts.
Continue Reading First Parish Coastal Zone Lawsuit to Proceed to Decision Falls for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies