Chesapeake Energy, which is fighting a lawsuit filed by Burleson property owners who claim the company illegally reneged on a lease agreement that would have benefited 408 households, wants to have the case heard in a Dallas federal court. But the property owners filed the lawsuit July 20 in the 18th State District Court in Cleburne and want venue to be there. Burleson is in far northern Johnson County.
Chesapeake contends the proposed class action lawsuit should be in federal court in part because the Class Action Fairness Act authorizes such jurisdiction for class actions with more than $5 million at stake. Chesapeake, represented by the prominent Fort Worth law firm of Kelly, Hart & Hallman, notes that the lawsuit seeks nearly nearly $6.7 million just for lease bonuses.
Another well-known Fort Worth law firm, Whitaker, Chalk, Swindle & Sawyer, represents two named plaintiffs, Leslee Dawn Ahrend and Buster Ray Williams, and wants the lawsuit to be declared a class action that would include the hundreds of Burleson properties that would have benefited from a lease agreement reached in 2008 between representatives of Chesapeake and an alliance of homeowners .
Under the agreement, property owners would have received a lucrative lease bonus of $27,200 per acre and a 25.25 percent royalty, the lawsuit states. It contends that Chesapeake was guilty of breach of contract in aborting the agreement by refusing to sign lease agreements with individual property owners based on the terms of the agreement. The plaintiffs cite a letter, dated Oct. 16, 2008, that a senior landman representing Chesapeake sent to representatives of Burleson homeowners. The landman said that, as a result of the deep economic recession and plunging natural gas prices, Chesapeake was "withdrawing previous offers to lease your minerals." The ,lawsuit contends that Chesapeake this year has offered a lease bonus of only $1,000 an acre and a 25 percent royalty.
See story in Wednesday's Star-Telegram.
--Jack Z. Smith