Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al.
Gulf South Pipeline Company, LLC owned an underground natural gas storage facility in Rankin County, Mississippi. It owned additional properties that ran through thirty-two Mississippi counties. As a public service corporation with property situated in more than one Mississippi county, property belonging to Gulf South was assessed centrally by the Mississippi Department of Revenue rather than by individual county tax assessors. After conducting the central assessment, MDOR apportions the tax revenues among the several counties in which the property is located. A significant amount of the natural gas stored in Gulf South’s Rankin County facility is owned by Gulf South’s customers and, therefore, it is excluded from MDOR’s central assessment. The Rankin County tax assessor requested that Gulf South disclose the volume of natural gas owned by each of its customers. Following Gulf South’s refusal to provide these data, in September 2021 the Rankin County tax assessor gave notice of its intention to assess Gulf South more than sixteen million dollars for approximately four billion cubic feet of natural gas stored by Gulf South but owned by its customers. Gulf South filed suit at the Chancery Court in Hinds County, seeking to enjoin the assessment and seeking a declaratory judgment that MDOR was the exclusive entity with the authority to assess a public service corporation with property located in more than one Mississippi county. On interlocutory appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court was asked to determine whether venue was proper in Hinds County when Rankin County was named as a defendant and MDOR was joined as a necessary party. The Court held that, under the venue provisions of Mississippi Code Section 11-45-17 and the Court’s consistent construction of these statutory provisions as mandatory and controlling, venue was proper only in Rankin County. Therefore, the chancellor erred by denying Rankin County’s motion to transfer venue. View "Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al." on Justia Law
Tiger Production Company, LLC, et al. v. Pace
In 2018, John Webb Pace, Jeannette Pace, and John Gregory Pace (the Paces) filed a complaint against Tiger Production Company, LLC, CCore Energy Management Company, LLC, Robert Marsh Nippes, and Harry Walters (collectively, “Tiger Production”). Each defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Paces’ claims for failure to exhaust their administrative remedies before the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board (MSOGB). After hearing oral arguments, the circuit court denied the motions to dismiss, determining that all of the Paces’ claims were based in common law and could not be remedied by the MSOGB. Tiger Production timely sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. After review, the Supreme Court found the circuit court was correct. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Tiger Production Company, LLC, et al. v. Pace" on Justia Law
Petro Harvester Oil & Gas Co., LLC, et al. v. Baucum
The crux of this interlocutory appeal was whether Plaintiffs, complaining of personal injury and property damage as a result of the alleged improper use of an oil-disposal well, had to exhaust their administrative remedies before the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board (MSOGB) prior to proceeding on their common-law claims in the circuit court. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the MSOGB could provide no adequate remedy for the Baucums’ personal-injury and property-damage claims, the Baucums were not required to exhaust administrative remedies before proceeding in the circuit court. View "Petro Harvester Oil & Gas Co., LLC, et al. v. Baucum" on Justia Law
Wayne County School District v. Morgan
After the Mississippi Supreme Court held in "Jones County School District v. Mississippi Department of Revenue," (111 So. 3d 588 (Miss. 2013)), that a school district was not liable for oil and gas severance taxes on royalties derived from oil and gas production on sixteenth-section land, the Chancery Court of Wayne County held that Wayne County School District (WCSD) was owed interest by the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) on its overpayment of severance taxes at the rate of one percent (1%) per month. The chancellor determined, based on Section 27-65-53 of the Mississippi Code, that the payment should have started on June 5, 2013, ninety days after the Jones County decision. Finding that the chancellor correctly applied the statute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the chancery court. View "Wayne County School District v. Morgan" on Justia Law
Braswell v. Ergon Oil Purchasing, Inc.
Randy Braswell sued Ergon Oil Purchasing, Inc. in Amite County over some oil contracts. Two days later, Ergon brought a declaratory judgment action against Braswell in Rankin County over those same contracts. Ergon removed the Amite County action to federal court, where it remained for eighteen months before it was remanded. In the meantime, Ergon obtained summary judgment against Braswell in Rankin County. Braswell appealed, arguing that the Rankin County judge erred when he granted summary judgment in Ergon's favor and when he refused to transfer the action to Amite County. The Supreme Court agreed with Braswell that the action should have been transferred to Amite County, and reversed the judgment of the Rankin County circuit judge based on the doctrine of priority jurisdiction, and remanded the case to the circuit court. View "Braswell v. Ergon Oil Purchasing, Inc." on Justia Law
Elliott v. El Paso Corporation
A city pipeline buried beneath a road leaked odorless natural gas which infiltrated a nearby home, causing an explosion. Residents alleged that the natural gas lacked its distinctive rotten egg smell, and that the odorant that was designed to provide the warning odor was defective because it faded. After reviewing Plaintiffs’ products-liability and assorted negligence claims against the odorant manufacturer, odorant distributor, and transmission pipeline, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that these claims failed as a matter of law. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment to the odorant manufacturer and transmission pipeline, and reversed the circuit court’s denial of the odorant distributor’s motion for summary judgment to render judgment in its favor. View "Elliott v. El Paso Corporation" on Justia Law
Tellus Operating Group, LLC v. Maxwell Energy, Inc.
In 2006, Tellus Operating Group, LLC, sought to integrate the interests of various owners for the purpose of drilling a well unit in Jefferson Davis County. In accordance with its statutory duty to make a good-faith effort to negotiate the voluntary integration of the owners’ interests on reasonable terms, Tellus mailed option forms to the owners in June and July of 2006. In this case, the issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was a challenge to a Mississippi Oil and Gas Board pooling order force-integrating various owners’ interests in a proposed drilling unit. After review, the Court held that the Board’s order was supported by substantial evidence. The Court also found that one owner’s attempt to voluntarily integrate his interest within twenty days of the Board’s pooling order did not satisfy Section 53-3-7(2)(g)(iii). View "Tellus Operating Group, LLC v. Maxwell Energy, Inc." on Justia Law
Entergy Mississippi, Inc. v. Acey
A.A. was electrocuted while playing on the farmland of David and Sherry Melton. Riley Berry, who worked for the Meltons, had parked a cotton picker under an allegedly sagging power line, which was owned by Entergy Mississippi, Inc. Ultimately, A.A. climbed onto the cotton picker, touched the power line, and was electrocuted. At the time of the accident, A.A.'s mother, Mary Bethanne Acey, was en route to Moon Lake, in Coahoma County with her son and Charles Graves. A 911 dispatcher called Graves to inform him of the accident. Graves immediately turned the car around to proceed to the Meltons' home. Acey then spoke with the dispatcher, who explained the gravity of the situation to Acey and informed her that A.A. had been "shocked." Emergency medical responders arrived shortly after Acey's arrival. A.A. suffered severe burns to both of her arms and her hip. A.A. subsequently was airlifted to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and was later transferred to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati, Ohio, which specializes in treating burn patients. Thereafter, Acey commenced legal action on behalf of A.A., and individually, against defendants Entergy, David and Sherry Melton, Melton Farms, Mary Mac, Inc., and Norfleet Investments, LP. Defendants settled all claims on behalf of A.A. Regarding Acey's individual bystander claims for emotional distress, Entergy moved for summary judgment and moved to strike the affidavits of Acey and Dr. William Hickerson. The trial court subsequently denied each motion. According to the trial court, based on the nature of A.A.'s injuries, this case "cries out for the expansion of" the factors provided by the California Supreme Court in "Dillon [v. Legg," 441 P. 2d 912, 920 (Cal. 1968)], adopted by the Mississippi Supreme Court in "Entex, Inc. v. McGuire,"(414 So. 2d 437 (Miss. 1982)). Thereafter, Entergy was granted interlocutory appeal. Because the Mississippi Court found that Entergy's motion for summary judgment should have been granted, the Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Entergy Mississippi, Inc. v. Acey" on Justia Law
Baker & McKenzie, LLP v. Evans, Jr.
In 2008, Plaintiffs S. Lavon Evans Jr. and his companies S. Lavon Evans Jr. Operating Company, Inc.; S. Lavon Evans Jr. Drilling Ventures, LLC; and E & D Services, Inc. sued Defendants the law firm of Baker & McKenzie, LLP, and one of its partners, Joel Held. The complaint also named as defendants Laredo Energy Holdings, LLC, and its related subsidiaries S. Lavon Evans Operating Texas, LLC, and E & D Drilling Services, LLC. Plaintiffs listed seven causes of action in the complaint: counts one and seven charged the Baker Defendants with legal malpractice and breach of contract; counts two through six charged all the defendants with breach of fiduciary duty, negligent omission and misstatements of material facts, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting, tortious interference, and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing. Defendants Laredo Energy Holdings, LLC; S. Lavon Evans Operating Texas, LLC; and E&D Drilling Services filed a cross-claim against the Baker Defendants claiming legal malpractice, breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of fiduciary duty. Evans asserted that in 2007, he lost access to his companies’ two largest assets (two oil drilling rigs) and was sued in Texas by the Baker Defendants on behalf of Reed Cagle (Evans’s business partner), who was acting on behalf of Laredo Energy Holdings, LLC. This triggered a flurry of liens and suits by vendors against Evans and his companies – all because, as Evans claims - he made decisions and entered agreements based on advice and recommendations from the Baker Defendants, who Evans believed to be his lawyers. Evans claimed that his businesses once were worth more than $50 million but now were accountable for debts exceeding $31 million as a result of the conduct by the Baker Defendants. The Mississippi case was tried, and the jury returned a verdict of $103,400,000 in actual damages for Plaintiffs and Cross-Plaintiffs. S. Lavon Evans Jr. was awarded $1 million from defendant Joel Held and $30 million from Baker & McKenzie. S. Lavon Evans Operating Company, Inc., was awarded $1 million from Joel Held and $29 million from Baker & McKenzie. E&D Services, LLC, was awarded $1 million from Joel Held and $19 million from Baker & McKenzie. The jury also assessed Evans, individually, with ten-percent comparative fault. And the trial court reduced the $31 million amount awarded to Evans, individually, by ten percent. The Cross-Plaintiffs were separately awarded $22.4 million from Joel Held and Baker & McKenzie, collectively. A divided jury awarded $75,000 in punitive damages to Plaintiffs and $75,000 in punitive damages to Cross-Plaintiffs. The trial court denied the Baker Defendants’ post-trial motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, new trial, and remittitur. This appeal followed. After careful consideration of the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed as to the Baker Defendants’ liability. But because the Court found the jury was not properly instructed, it reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on proximate cause and damages. View "Baker & McKenzie, LLP v. Evans, Jr." on Justia Law
Delphi Oil, Inc. v. Forrest County Board of Supervisors
The Forrest County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance requiring oil and gas facilities located within the county be fenced in. Delphi Oil, Inc. appealed a circuit court order that upheld the Board's ordinance, arguing that the regulatory authority of the State Oil and Gas Board (OGB) preempted any local regulations of oil and gas activity. The Supreme Court found the state law did not preempt the local ordinance, and affirmed. View "Delphi Oil, Inc. v. Forrest County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law