Whether the proponent of his own working interest in a mineral lease may prove his entitlement thereto and enforce his rights thereunder by demonstrating his inclusion within a mining partnership or partnership in mining, without resort to proof that the lease interest has been conveyed to him by deed or will or otherwise in strict conformance with the Statute of Frauds.
We perceive that the answer to the foregoing question of West Virginia law may be determinative of the cause now pending before us. Moreover, it appears that the decisions of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia provide no controlling precedent dispositive of the question. To fully illustrate the nature of the controversy out of which the question arises, we next recite the relevant facts.
Clifton G. Valentine filed this diversity action on November 8, 2010, in the Northern District of West Virginia, alleging that he is the owner of certain fractional working interests in four Ritchie County mining partnerships: Cuthright Oil & Gas Co. (stated working interest of 3/32), Iams Gas Co. (2/32), Iams Oil Co. (5/32), and Keith Gas Co. (1/32). Three wells produce oil and gas on Cuthright’s leasehold, with single wells in production for each of the other three partnerships on their respective, discrete leaseholds.
Named as defendants in Valentine’s lawsuit are Sugar Rock, Inc., which is the operator of the wells, and two of its officers, Gerald D. Hall and Teresa D. Hall (collectively, “Sugar Rock”). Valentine demands an accounting and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, together with reimbursement of his attorney fees and litigation costs. On January 13, 2011, Sugar Rock answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim “in excess of $14,191.00,” representing the cumulative operating expenses attributable to Valentine’s asserted working interests in the six wells. See J.A. 27.
Judge(s): Robert King
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
Related Categories: Contracts , Property
|Circuit Court Judge(s)|
|Trial Court Judge(s)|
|Appellant Lawyer(s)||Appellant Law Firm(s)|
|Daniel Corcoran||Theisen Brock LPA|
|James Huggins||Theisen Brock LPA|
|Appellee Lawyer(s)||Appellee Law Firm(s)|
|Henry Lawrence, IV||Steptoe & Johnson PLLC|
|William O'Brien||Steptoe & Johnson PLLC|
|Amy Smith||Steptoe & Johnson PLLC|