(Plaintiffs Claiming) Trespass Beware

In Chauvin v. Shell Oil Company, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment to defendants on Plaintiffs’ trespass action.  In doing so, the Fifth Circuit made clear that to succeed on a trespass claim when the contracts at issue are ambiguous, parole evidence from the plaintiffs’ experts and the plaintiffs themselves should be consistent with ownership. 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

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

Liskow Lawyers Obtain Win for Oil and Gas Industry in Severance Tax Litigation

In a decision by the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, Liskow & Lewis attorneys Robert Angelico, Jim Exnicios, Cheryl Kornick, RJ Marse, and Jeff Birdsong obtained a ruling rejecting attempts by the Louisiana Department of Revenue to increase the amount of severance taxes due on crude oil produced in Louisiana.  The Department of Revenue targeted dozens of producers, including many smaller producers, with audits and assessments attempting to impose severance taxes on market center or index prices rather than the value of the crude oil in the field.  Continue Reading

Extension of DOL Fiduciary Rule is Official and some Guidelines for Documenting Rollovers

The Department of Labor officially announced the 18-month extension of the effective date of the key, and most onerous provisions, of the DOL Fiduciary Rule (until July 1, 2019).[1]  The announcement was made on November 29, 2017.  This extension delays the implementation of the most problematic procedures of the DOL Fiduciary Rule, which had been previously set to take effect on January 1, 2018.  However, advisers should be aware that the portions of the DOL Fiduciary Rule, known as the “Impartial Conduct Standards,” are already effective. Continue Reading

LABI and LOGA Endorse President Trump’s Nominations for the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

In September 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Kyle S. Duncan and Judge Kurt Engelhardt to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Duncan is currently a partner at Schaeer Duncan LLP in Washington D.C. while Judge Engelhardt serves as the Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Just recently, two industry groups in Louisiana approved of President Trump’s nominees.  The Louisiana Association of Business Industry (“LABI”) and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (“LOGA”) officially endorsed Duncan and Chief Judge Engelhardt in November 2017.  Both LABI and LOGA are strong advocates for developing incentives and legislation that support economic growth in Louisiana, especially through the production of oil and gas.  Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Affirms $20 Million Judgment Against Barge Owner as Responsible Party Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990

Case:     United States v. American Commercial Lines, L.L.C., No. 16-31150, ___ F.3d ___ (5th Cir. 11/7/17).

Factual Background

In July of 2008, nearly 300,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Mississippi River in New Orleans when a tugboat towing an oil-filled barge veered across the river into the path of an ocean-going tanker.  American Commercial Lines (“ACL”) owned the tug MEL OLIVER, and bareboat chartered its tug to DRD Towing.  DRD then operated the MEL OLIVER under a time charter to ACL.  At the time of the collision, the MEL OLIVER, which was pushing ACL’s barge DM-932 fully laden with oil, was operating without a captain who had effectively abandoned the vessel several days earlier.  The Steersman left in charge was allegedly sound asleep at the wheel at the time of the collision as he had been working for nearly 36 straight hours.  The TINTOMARA, a tanker, collided with the DM-932, causing the barge to break away and ultimately sink in the Mississippi River resulting in the spill of approximately 300,000 gallons of oil into the River.  As owner of the leaking barge, ACL was deemed the responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA ’90”). Continue Reading

Third Circuit Affirms Trial Court’s Refusal to Adopt DNR’s Most Feasible Plan in Sweet Lake Land & Oil Co. v. Oleum Operating Company

The Louisiana Legislature passed “Act 312,” La. R.S. 30:29, in 2006 to provide a procedure for ensuring that amounts awarded to remediate environmental damage are actually spent on remediation.  Act 312 sets forth a multi-step scheme that is triggered once a party is found responsible for environmental damage, culminating with Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) approving a plan “to evaluate or remediate” the environmental damage. La. R.S. 30:29(C)(2)(a). Thereafter the trial court “shall adopt the plan approved by the [DNR] unless another party proves by a preponderance of the evidence that another plan is more feasible,” id. 30:29(C)(5).  Continue Reading

Louisiana Supreme Court Holds Punitive Damages Are Available Under General Maritime Law Against Products Liability Defendant

Case:  Warren v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co., No. 2016-C-1647 (La. 10/18/17), ___ So. 3d ___.

Factual Background

A recreational boating accident occurred on navigable inland waters of Louisiana in May of 2005 resulting in the death of a 22-year old passenger. While the boat was on plane, the hydraulic steering system manufactured by defendant Teleflex suddenly failed due to fluid loss, causing the boat to turn violently with the motor going into a free spin (known in the industry as a “J-hook” or “kill spin”). Decedent and other passengers were ejected from the boat, and thereafter, the boat continued to spin around with its propeller striking decedent 19 times, resulting in death.

Decedent’s parents[1] filed suit under general maritime law and products liability for the wrongful death of their son, and sought punitive damages under the general maritime law. Their claims against Teleflex, a sophisticated boating industry manufacturer, centered on its failure to warn unsuspecting users of the inherent danger in its product—that a very small loss of fluid would result in loss of steering and potentially cause ejection and death.

Following trial,[2] the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff and against Teleflex for failure to warn, awarding compensatory damages of $125,000 and punitive damages of $23 million. Teleflex appealed the verdict, and the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed. Continue Reading

Plaintiffs and Defendants Jointly Choose First Cases for Trial in Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Management Act Litigation

The first five Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) cases to be set for trial have been chosen. The Plaintiffs selected Parish of Plaquemines v. Rozel Operating Company, et al., Parish of Plaquemines v. ConocoPhillips Company, et al., and Parish of Plaquemines v. Hilcorp Energy Company, et al.  The Defendants picked Parish of Plaquemines v. Equitable Petroleum Corporation, et al. and Parish of Plaquemines v. Helis Oil & Gas Company, LLC, et alContinue Reading

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