Because I have discussed creating this blog with some of you more than once over the last several months, but had taken no action, I’m sure that some of you had lost hope that prudentoperator.com would ever see the light of day. Alas, here we are.
So, what took so long? Well, that is a great topic for my first post.
The short answer is three scheduled trials and $451.4 million in combined alleged damages.
- $1.4 million. One of our oil and gas clients entrusted me and a colleague to handle an aggressive personal injury matter involving a company truck. I was grateful for the opportunity to handle most of the major tasks (depositions, mediation, etc.) due to the smaller amount in controversy, and we managed to secure a favorable settlement less than a month before trial.
- $300 million. Just days after settling the personal injury matter, I was off to a class action royalty trial in federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas. The case involved more than 12,000 Fayetteville Shale royalty owners seeking $100 million in actual damages and double that in punitive damages for alleged improper royalty deductions for gathering and treating services provided by an affiliated midstream company. I’ll spare you the details for now (an appeal has been filed), but the case is certainly one of the few (only?) large royalty class actions to be tried to a verdict in recent history. After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for roughly seven hours late into a Friday night (they ordered pizza), and returned a full defense verdict for our client. It was an exhausting but thrilling victory. I flew home, took the weekend off, grilled a celebratory steak, got back into childcare duty, took my dog on a walk, and finally made it back to the gym. But another trial was on the horizon.
- $150 million. The third and final act was a negligence, subsurface trespass, and nuisance case arising out of the operation of an “acid gas” disposal well that injects hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide (unwanted production byproducts) underground in a rural county in a major shale play. An adjacent operator alleged that our client’s disposal activities had impacted its production to the tune of almost $150 million. This past Wednesday, less than three weeks before voir dire was set to begin, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of our client, disposing (pun intended) of all the pending claims.
Now, with a little breathing room, it’s time to get this blog going. So get ready – because of these trials, I have a Dropbox folder that is backlogged and overflowing with interesting cases and articles to read.