Energy litigators secure a summary judgment for a natural gas producing client in a lease royalty dispute

Energy Group Co-Chair and Member Jeffrey D. Roberts and Associate Cressinda D. Schlag received a summary judgment for a large natural gas producing client in a lease dispute involving the distribution of royalties in Greene County, Pa. The land involved in the dispute was initially part of a lease that was entered into by a husband and wife in 1928. Their estate was eventually subdivided between three parties with the latest modification to the lease occurring in 2009. The plaintiffs, a married couple who owned the majority of the surface estates and oil and gas rights in the lease, disputed the allocation of royalties in regard to one of the individuals in the lease in 2010. In accordance with the lease, our client ceased making payments to that individual and placed the disputed funds into suspense. The plaintiffs then sued, alleging that our client withheld royalty payments that belonged to them.

Burns White argued that the subdivision of royalties and suspension of funds were in accordance with the terms found in the modified lease that was signed by all parties involved. The court agreed and granted summary judgment, noting that no additional interpretation of the lease was required.