Smackdown to Columbia LLC/Chesapeake Natural Gas Royalties Lawsuit - Judge Upholds 404 Million VerdictSomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

Smackdown to Columbia LLC/Chesapeake Natural Gas Royalties Lawsuit - Judge Upholds 404 Million Verdict
 


1 July 2007 at 12:48:17 PM
salon

A little background from where I wrote about this before. Now to this week. (And while you read this, don't forget that Chesapeake had tried to threaten to not build their regional headquarters in North Carolina over this, and are still thinking about it. You know, do North Carolinians really want these kind of crooks in their neighborhood? Wah! Wah! To Chesapeake

The judge presiding over a hotly contested natural gas royalties lawsuit has upheld the jury’s $404 million verdict against the state’s biggest gas drillers, setting the stage for a state Supreme Court challenge.

Neither the jury’s finding of fraud nor the size of damages deserve to be overturned, said Roane County Circuit Court Judge Tom Evans in a 101-page ruling released on Thursday.

“The jury’s verdict ... is sustained as being fully supported by the law and the facts,” Evans wrote. “A downward adjustment in punitive damages is not warranted under the evidence and the law, and would amount to a denial of the plaintiffs/lessors’ right to the due process of the law.”

During a post-trial hearing before Evans last March, a NiSource lawyer argued that, given the jury’s findings of fault against the drillers, punitive damages should amount only to around $43 million.

But Evans says in his final ruling that the drillers’ arguments for reducing the damages didn’t stand up.

The drillers contended, for example, that they deducted post-production and marketing costs from the royalties under a good-faith interpretation of their contracts, not with fraudulent intent. But Evans said that such an interpretation contradicts “established practice” in West Virginia and that when contract terms are ambiguous they are to be “liberally construed in favor of the lessor.”

The drillers’ argument was further undercut, Evans said, by the fact that they failed to prove they honestly believed in such an interpretation of the contracts.

“No one testified that CNR thought it had the right to take these deductions based on the royalty clauses of the leases,” he wrote. “Accordingly, [the] defendants’ argument that the award of punitive damages should be set aside because the royalty clauses were ‘ambiguous,’ is without merit and must be rejected.”


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