Thursday, July 5, 2012

Couple Seeks To Undo Land Lease w/ Gas Drillers; Say They Were Duped Into Accepting Rent So Low "As To Shock The Conscience"

In Wheeling, West Virginia, The West Virginia Record reports:

  • Two gas drilling companies being sued by a Brooke County couple over a land lease asked this week to have the lawsuit moved to federal court.

  • Defendants Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, based in Oklahoma, and Statoil USA Onshore Properties Inc., based in Texas, filed their notice of removal in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Monday. The plaintiffs, Ramon and Lois Bowen, sued Chesapeake, Statoil and Range Resources-Appalachia LLC, which is based in Pennsylvania, in May in Brooke County Circuit Court.

  • The Bowens are seeking declaratory relief and unspecified amount of compensatory damages and punitive damages for alleged "economic loss, slander of title, loss of use of their land, lost opportunity, lost profits, aggravation and inconvenience, along with all available interest, costs, attorney fees, fines and penalties."

  • The Bowens, [...] are claiming a breach of implied covenants, the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, unjust enrichment, unlawful holding-over, slander of title, trespass, tort of outrage and civil conspiracy.

  • According to the Bowens' complaint, they entered into an oil and gas lease with Great Lakes Energy Partners LLC, now known as Range Resources, leasing their oil and gas interests to 53.10 acres of land. The lease subsequently was assigned to Chesapeake -- 73.12 percent -- and Statoil -- 26.88 percent.

  • Under the deal the Bowens signed in 2007, they received $50 per acre, rental payments of $7 per year and a 14 percent interest in royalties.

  • Now, the couple -- who claim the amounts are so low "as to shock the conscience" -- want a judge to declare the lease expired and punish the companies they allege took advantage of them.

  • In their notice of removal, Chesapeake and Statoil argue that federal court is the more appropriate venue since the matter in controversy exceeds $75,000 and the cases arises between citizens of different states.

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