Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
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In this discretionary appeal brought by Discovery Oil and Gas, LLC to determine whether an express indemnification provision in its contract with Wildcat Drilling, LLC evinced a clear intent by the parties to abrogate the common-law notice requirements for indemnification set forth in Globe Indemnity Co. v. Schmitt, 53 N.E.2d 790 (Ohio 1944), the Supreme Court held that the requirements announced in Globe Indemnity did not apply.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) when the parties have entered into a contract containing an express indemnification provision, the common-law notice requirements set forth in Globe Indemnity do not apply, and the parties are bound by the terms of their contract because the provision evinces a clear intent by the parties to abrogate the common law; and (2) the language of the contract in this case evicted the parties' clear intent to abrogate the common-law notice requirements for indemnification. View "Wildcat Drilling, LLC v. Discovery Oil & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals in this case involving the question of deed construction within the oil and gas context as to whether a royalty interest was fixed or floating, holding that further proceedings were required to evaluate this case in light of the framework articulated in Van Dyke v. Navigator Group, 668 S.W.3d 353 (Tex. 2023).The 1956 deed at issue expressly reserved an undivided 3/32's interest "(same being three-fourths (3/4's) of the usual one-eighth (1/8th) royalty)" in the oil, gas, and other minerals. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the reservation was a floating 3/4 interest of the royalty rather than a fixed 3/32 interest. The court of appeals concluded that the reservation was a floating 3/4 interest. Because the court of appeals' decision preceded Van Dyke, the Court's most recent double-fraction case, the Supreme Court granting the petition for review and vacated the lower court's decision, holding that this case must be remanded this case for further proceedings in light of Van Dyke. View "Thomson v. Hoffman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Equalization upholding the final determinations of the Department of Revenue (DOR) increasing the taxable value of Jonah Energy LLC's natural gas liquids (NGL) production for 2014 through 2016, holding that Jonah was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error.On appeal, Jonah argued that the Board misinterpreted the NGL purchase agreement between Jonah and the purchaser of its NGL, Enterprise Products Operating LLC, by refusing to account for deficiency fees Jonah paid to Enterprise in determining the NGL's taxable value. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board did not misinterpret the NGL purchase agreement at issue; and (2) the Board did not err by failing to take the facts and circumstances surrounding execution of the purchase agreement into account when interpreting it because there was no basis for losing outside the four corners of the purchase agreement to determine its meaning. View "Jonah Energy LLC v. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Alliance Pipeline L.P. (“Alliance”) entered into contracts with four states (“State Agreements”) as well as contracts with individual landowners in order to build a natural gas pipeline. The contracts with landowners provide easements for the pipeline right-of-way. In 2018, some landowners on the pipeline right-of-way filed a class-action lawsuit against Alliance. After the class was certified, Alliance moved to compel arbitration for the approximately 73 percent of plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. Alliance appealed, arguing the district court erred by not sending all issues to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that the district court that the damages issues are subject to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs make two arguments against sending any issues to arbitration: (1) Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be within the scope of the arbitration provisions because the claims allege lack of compensation for “ongoing yield losses,” not “damages to crops” and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims arise under the State Agreements, which do not have arbitration provisions. The court found the arbitration agreements to be enforceable and to cover all issues. The court held that as to the arbitration class members, the claims should be dismissed without prejudice. As to the members of the class without arbitration provisions, the court saw no reason why these class members cannot proceed with the lawsuit in the normal course at the district court. View "H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P." on Justia Law

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Defendants GADECO, LLC, and Continental Resources, Inc. appealed a judgment quieting title in oil and gas leasehold interests in Zavanna, LLC. Zavanna and the Defendants made competing claims to oil and gas leasehold interests covering 1,280 gross acres in Williams County, North Dakota. These interests were located in the Golden Unit; the Golden Well was the only well producing oil and gas from the subject leasehold within the Golden Unit. GADECO operated the Golden Well. Zavanna was the lessee by assignment of the “Top Leases” and GADECO and Continental were the lessees of the “Bottom Leases.” The Top Leases and Bottom Leases covered the same lands and leasehold interests. The Bottom Leases automatically terminated upon cessation of production unless certain express conditions were met. The Bottom Leases stated that a cessation of production after the lease’s primary term would not terminate the lease if the lessee restores production or commences additional drilling or reworking operations within 90 days (or 120 days in the case of the Parke Energy Leases) from the date of cessation of production. After a bench trial, the district court quieted title in Zavanna, concluding the Bottom Leases terminated by their own terms when production ceased and GADECO failed to timely commence drilling or reworking operations. The court found three periods of production cessation. The court concluded Defendants bore the burden to prove that production did not cease or reworking operations were timely commenced. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in concluding Defendants’ leases terminated under their terms when production ceased and Defendants failed to timely commence reworking operations, and in concluding Defendants failed to show a force majeure condition saved the leases from termination. View "Zavanna v. Gadeco, et al." on Justia Law

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Dakota Energy Power Cooperative, Inc., a member of East River Electric Power Cooperative, Inc., sought to withdraw from East River and to terminate the parties’ long-term power contract so that it could purchase electricity from another source. When East River resisted, Dakota Energy sued for anticipatory breach of contract and sought a declaratory judgment providing that it had a contractual right to withdraw from East River by way of a buyout. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of East River, and Dakota Energy appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under the UCC, the terms of a written contract “may be explained or supplemented” by certain extrinsic evidence, including “usage of trade.” Dakota Energy’s proffered trade usage evidence would effectively add an entirely new provision to the WPC. Moreover, under the UCC, “the express terms of an agreement and any applicable . . . usage of trade must be construed whenever reasonable as consistent with each other.” Here, the express terms of the WPC—which provide that the agreement will “remain in effect” until December 31, 2075, and which contain no provision allowing for an early buyout—are inconsistent with any trade usage evidence suggesting something to the contrary. Therefore, the court concluded that the WPC unambiguously requires Dakota Energy to purchase all of its electricity from East River until December 31, 2075, and that no provision in the WPC or East River’s Bylaws allows for an earlier termination of that obligation. View "Dakota Energy Coop, Inc. v. East River Electric Power Coop., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this case concerning whether Apache Corporation breached its purchase-and-sale agreements (PSAs) with Sellers, holding the court of appeals erred by failing to apply the default common-law rule of contractual construction to the parties' dispute and incorrectly construed other contractual provisions at issue.In the PSAs at issue, Sellers sold seventy-five percent of their working interests in 109 oil-and-gas leases to Apache. The trial court rendered final judgment for Apache on the grounds that Sellers had no evidence of damages and could not prevail on their claims. The court of appeals reversed in part. At issue was whether the default rule for treating contracts that use the words "from" or "after" a specified date to measure a length of time should be applied in this case. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals as to the issues that the parties presented for review, holding that the parties' agreement in this case implicated the default rule without displacing it. View "Apache Corp. v. Apollo Exploration, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment granted by the trial court in favor of a school corporation that contractually agreed to make biannual payments to a company for access to a wind turbine, holding that the contract was void and unenforceable.Randolph Eastern School Corporation (RESC) contractually agreed to make biannual payments to Performance Services, Inc. for a wind-turbine project. As part of the contract, Performance agreed to provide RESC with financial benefits tied to the net revenue of the turbine. RESC, which never made any payments to Performance, brought this declaratory judgment action seeking to void the contract on the grounds that it constituted an illegal investment. The trial court granted RESC's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the contract constituted an unauthorized investment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the contract between RESC and Performance was void and unenforceable because it constituted an investment unauthorized by statute. View "Performance Services, Inc. v. Randolph Eastern School Corp." on Justia Law

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In these two consolidated cases involving claims brought against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT) the Supreme Court answered, among other questions, that ERCOT is a governmental unit as defined in the Texas Tort Claims Act and is thereby entitled to pursue an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction.CPS Energy sued ERCOT and several of its officers for, inter alia, breach of contract. The trial court denied ERCOT'S plea to the jurisdiction. Ultimately, the court of appeals held that ERCOT was a governmental unit entitled to take an interlocutory appeal. In the second case, Panda sued ERCOT for, inter alia, fraud. The trial court denied ERCOT's pleas to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals ultimately held that ERCOT was not entitled to sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in the first case and reversed in the other, holding (1) ERCOT was entitled to pursue an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction; (2) the Public Utility Commission of Texas has exclusive jurisdiction over the parties' claims against ERCOT; and (3) ERCOT was entitled to sovereign immunity. View "CPS Energy v. Electric Reliability Council of Texas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the orders of the trial court granting TotalEnergies E&P USA, Inc.'s motion to stay arbitration before the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and denying MP Gulf of Mexico, LLC's motion to compel that arbitration, holding that the parties' contracts required them to resolve their controversies through arbitration.In the underlying dispute involving oil and gas leases Total E&P filed this suit seeking a declaratory construing the parties' cost sharing agreement. Thereafter, MP Gulf initiated an arbitration proceeding asserting that Total E&P breached the agreement. At issue was whether the parties clearly and unmistakably delegated arbitrability issues to the arbitrator by agreeing to arbitrate their controversies in accordance with the AAA Commercial Rules. The trial court granted Total E&P's motion to stay the AAA arbitration and denied MP Gulf's motion to compel that arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and compelled AAA arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the parties clearly and unmistakably delegated to the AAA arbitrator the decision of whether the parties' controversy must be resolved by arbitration. View "TotalEnergies E&P USA, Inc. v. MP Gulf of Mexico, LLC" on Justia Law