Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order confirming a $622 million arbitration award. The parties are oil and gas companies incorporated in different countries, and the dispute arose from the Agreement for the Provision of Drilling Services (DSA). About two years into the DSA's term, Vantage and Petrobras executed the Third Novation and Amendment Agreement, which included an arbitration clause. As a preliminary matter, the court stated that it need not decide the issue of whether the appeal waiver was enforceable. On the merits, the court held that there was no public policy bar to confirmation of the arbitration award. In this case, the district court did not engage in inappropriate deference to the arbitrator's decision and the district court did not base its decision just on "mutual mistake." The court also held that Petrobras has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in denying the discovery motions. Finally, the court rejected Petrobras' motion to vacate the arbitration award. View "Vantage Deepwater Co. v. Petrobras America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Digidrill filed suit against its competitor, Petrolink, alleging that Petrolink hacked into its software at various oil drilling sites in order to "scrape" valuable drilling data in real time. The district court granted Petrolink's motion for summary judgment on Digidrill's copyright claims. Digidrill's unjust enrichment claim proceeded to trial, where a jury returned a verdict in Digidrill's favor. In regard to the copyright infringement claim, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that Digidrill likely waived its "qualitative importance" argument but, even if not, the argument fails on the merits because no reasonable jury could find substantial similarity based on the qualitative importance of the copied schema to DataLogger as a whole. The court also affirmed the district court's judgment as to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act claims, holding that the USB dongle and Interface Process did not effectively control access to the protected database schema. The court also held that Digidrill's unjust enrichment claim is not preempted by the Copyright Act because the claim incorporates an element beyond mere unauthorized copying. The court held that the available Texas authorities do not foreclose the possibility that a litigant may show the taking of an undue advantage without showing the violation of a law or legal duty. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Petrolink's judgment as a matter of law on the issue of whether Digidrill adduced sufficient evidence of the benefit Petrolink obtained from Digidrill. Finally, the court held that the district court failed to treat Petrolink as the prevailing party under the relevant statutes and failed to apply the correct legal standard. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's denial of Petrolink's motion for fees and remanded. View "Digital Drilling Data Systems, LLC v. Petrolink Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants own the surface of land sitting atop the property leased by Petro Harvestor. When the lease expired, Petro Harvestor sought a declaratory judgment that it could continue to operate its oil and gas activities on the property. Defendants claimed that the Surface Lease required Petro Harvester to return the surface land to its pre-lease condition upon expiration, requiring that Petro Harvester remove its machinery and vacate the property. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Petro Harvestor, holding that the district court correctly held that the Surface Lease here does not supersede the Mineral Lease; the district court properly rejected defendants' affirmative defenses of waiver, ratification, and estoppel; Mississippi's statute of limitations does not bar Petro Harvester's declaratory judgment action; and defendants waived any argument that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment. View "Petro Harvester Operating Co. v. Keith" on Justia Law

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In this appeal stemming from the Deepwater Horizon litigation, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting discretionary review and affirming a $77 million award against BP. The court held that the district court failed to consider investigating credible evidence of a sole, superseding cause for the claimant's loss. Furthermore, the district court's decision was made without the benefit of this circuit's guidance on causation. In this case, claimant is a global commodities merchandiser that purchases and supplies ammonia and fertilizers around the world. BP argued that claimant passed the V-Shaped Revenue Pattern due solely to a price spike and drop in the price of fertilizer that was unrelated to the oil spill. The court remanded for the district court to examine the issue in the first instance and to determine whether to remand to the Claims Administrator for additional factfinding. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100191715" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissal of LOGI's complaint for failure to state a claim. The magistrate judge and district court concluded that LOGI failed to provide Shell and Gulfport with notice under Article 137 of the Louisiana Mineral Code of their alleged failure to pay royalties timely and properly, and that LOGI consequently was barred from recovering under Article 138. Applying Louisiana law, the court held that the magistrate judge and district court did not err in determining that plaintiff's January 2014 communication was insufficient under Article 137. Furthermore, LOGI's second communication also did not satisfy the requirements of Article 137. View "Louisiana Oil & Gas Interests, LLC v. Shell Trading U.S. Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision declining discretionary review of the appeal panel's affirmance of a Settlement Program determination that Walmart's submission was a "start-up business" claim. The court also affirmed the nearly $1 million award. In this case, Walmart submitted an economic loss claim under the Deepwater Horizon Settlement Agreement for one of its stores located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The store had reopened six months before the oil spill, having been closed ever since it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina years earlier. The court held that the underlying appeal panel decision did not actually contradict or misapply the Settlement Agreement on a pressing question of implementation, and there was no split among appeal panels on the issue presented. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of discretionary review of five awards made to Walmart under the Settlement Agreement arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The court held that there was no showing of a misapplication or contradiction of the Settlement Agreement requiring the district court's review. In this case, the Claims Administrator conducted a searching review of the financial statements Walmart provided from both its old and new accounting system, and the PWC accountants brought specific clarification questions to Walmart regarding the changes. Furthermore, Walmart responded to the satisfaction of the Claims Administrator. The court rejected BP's claim that there was a split Appeal Panels on how to address changes in accounting systems like the one at issue here. The court saw BP's claim as one challenging the Appeal Panels' discretionary decision that raises the correctness of a discretionary administrative decision on the facts of a single claimant's case, and held that the district court's denial of a request for discretionary review of such a decision was not an abuse of discretion. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107" on Justia Law

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At issue in this oil and gas royalty case were orders to pay issued by the Department of the Interior to W&T in order to resolve volumetric gas delivery imbalances. The district court granted partial summary judgment on each of the parties' motions. The Fifth Circuit held that the Department of the Interior permissibly required resolution of delivery imbalances via cash payment, but that it improperly promulgated a substantive rule without subjecting it to notice and comment. The court also held that the Department of the Interior should have credited all W&T’s deliveries under the doctrine of equitable recoupment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "W & T Offshore, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to decline discretionary review of the denial of claimant's claim for damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At issue was whether a claimant's alleged unlawful conduct wholly or partially disqualifies it from the Settlement Program and, if so, what evidence is adequate to show that the claimant engaged in such conduct. The court held that the parties have been unable to give the court clear answers that were rooted in the Settlement Agreement or other law. The court found a three-way split among appeal panels on the significance of wrongdoing, and the parties have neither agreed nor persuaded the court as to what the legal framework ought to be. Therefore, and in light of the recurrence of the issues this appeal implicated, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Claimant ID 100235033 v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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A group of menhaden fishermen challenged the denial of their claims pursuant to a punitive damages settlement agreement between a class of claimants, who alleged that they were harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and defendants. As a preliminary matter, the Fifth Circuit granted the Fishermen's motion to take judicial notice of the docket and complaint in Bruhmuller v. BP Exploration & Production Inc. The court held that the magistrate judge did not err by affirming the denial of Fishermen's claims, because the Fishermen did not attempt to comply with Pretrial Order 60 at any point throughout these proceedings. The court also held that the district court did not err in declining to review the magistrate judge's decision, and the district court did not err in denying the Fishermen's Rule 60(b) motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Lake Eugenie Land & Development, Inc. v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law