PA Landowners Prevail in Mineral Rights Class Action
Landowners in Fayette County, Pennsylvania have reached a $5.5 million class action settlement with Chief Exploration and Development LLC. The Fayette County Court approved the preliminary class settlement on September 1, 2022, eleven years after the lawsuit was filed.
Between August and October of 2008, 60 mineral rights owners were offered leases by a land agent’s representing Chief Exploration and Development (now operating as Cypress Exploration & Development). The suit alleged that the defendant operator breached its promise to pay bonus payments to these landowners. The class was approved by the court as the lease provision’s bonus payment terms were substantially similar among those contracts signed by each of the plaintiff mineral owners.
According to court filings, one of the critical issues involved whether the defendant oil and gas operator could terminate or “reject” the leases offered to the Fayette County landowners based upon reasons that were not mentioned in the leases. The defendant also disputed the land agent’s authority to offer the rejected leases on the defendant’s behalf. After over a decade of litigation, Defendant Chief Exploration agreed to settle the class dispute without admitting liability or wrongdoing of any kind. However, the settlement amounted to nearly 80% of the $7 million in damages initially claimed by the plaintiffs.