Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the Board of Equalization’s decision affirming the ruling of the Wyoming Department of Revenue against PacifiCorp, Inc., which sought a ruling that its purchases of certain chemicals used in the process of generating electricity in coal-fired electrical generation facilities in Wyoming qualified for either the manufacturers’ sales tax exemption or the wholesalers’ sales tax exemption. The court held (1) The Board erred when it concluded that PacifiCorp is not a manufacturer under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-15-105(a)(iii)A); (2) the Board did not err when it held that certain chemicals necessary to treat water and sulfur dioxide emissions during the coal combustion processes that generate electricity are not “used directly” to generate electricity and are therefore not exempt from sales tax under section 39-15-105(a)(iii)(A); and (3) the Board did not err when it held that PacifiCorp’s purchases of certain chemicals and catalysts do not constitute wholesale purchases exempt from taxation under section 39-15-105(a)(iii)(F). View "PacifiCorp, Inc. v. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case disputed title to certain mineral interests underlying certain property. The dispute arose out of a 1911 Laramie County tax assessment against Union Pacific’s mineral interests in the property and the county’s subsequent tax sale and issuance of a tax deed for the property. Family Tree Corporation, which claimed title to portions of the minerals, filed a complaint for quiet title and declaratory judgment against Three Sisters LLC, which also claimed an ownership in the minerals, and Anardarko Land Corporation. The district court quieted title to Family Tree based upon the 1912 tax sale. Anadarko appealed, arguing that the 1911 tax assessment against the minerals was unconstitutional, and therefore, the resulting tax sale and deed were void. The Supreme Court affirmed after drawing the line between a tax assessment defect that will render a tax deed void and one that will render the tax deed viable, holding (1) the error in Laramie County’s tax assessment against the minerals at issue rendered the resulting tax deed voidable, not void; and (2) accordingly, Anadarko’s challenge to the validity of the tax deed was barred by the statute of limitations. View "Anadarko Land Corp. v. Family Tree Corp." on Justia Law

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Pennaco Energy Inc. acquired mineral leases beneath a surface estate owned by Brett Sorenson, Trustee of the Brett L. Sorenson Trust. A surface damage and use agreement between the parties granted Pennaco access to and use of the land for exploration and production of minerals, and, in return, required Pennaco to pay for the damage to and use of the surface estate, and to reclaim the land once operations ended. When Pennaco refused to perform its obligations under the contract, Soreson brought this lawsuit. The jury rendered a verdict finding that Sorenson suffered more than $1 million in damages. The district court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict and also awarded Sorenson costs and attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) ruling that Pennaco remained liable under the surface damage and use agreement after assignment, and (2) using a 2.5 multiplier to enhance the lodestar amount in awarding attorney fees. View "Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. Sorenson" on Justia Law

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Pennaco Energy, Inc. obtained oil and gas leases and made contracts with the surface landowners, who were predecessors of Appellees. The contracts granted Pennaco use of the landowners’ land during exploration and production under the mineral leases. After several years, Pennaco assigned its interest in its coal bed methane operation to CEP-M purchase, LLC, which re-assigned those interests to High Plains Gas, Inc. After the assignment, neither Pennaco nor the assignees made any required payments under the assignments, nor did they reclaim any of the land, as required under the agreements. Appellees sued Pennaco for breach of the agreements. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees. Pennaco appealed, arguing that the district court erred in concluding that Pennaco remained liable under the agreements even after the assignment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the agreements contained indications that Pennaco’s contractual obligations continued even after assignment and because there was no express clause that terminated Pennaco’s obligations upon assigning the agreements to a third party, Pennaco remained liable to Appellees to perform the covenants in the event its assignee defaulted. View "Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. KD Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Bowers Oil and Gas, Inc. (BOG) entered into a Gas Purchase Contract with Kinder Morgan Operating, L.P. (Kinder Morgan), pursuant to which Kinder Morgan agreed to purchase coal bed methane gas from certain of BOG's wells. Kinder Morgan transferred its interest in the Contract, and Kinder Morgan's successor eventually terminated the Contract pursuant to a provision that allowed either party to terminate if in the terminating party's sole opinion, the sale or purchase of the gas became unprofitable or uneconomical. BOG thereafter filed suit asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Following a bench trial, the district court found no contract breach or covenant breach and ruled in favor of Kinder Morgan and its successor. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed. The Court found no breach of contract in the successor's removal of the pipelines connecting BOG to the gas gathering system and that the Gas Purchase Contract was properly terminated for economic cause. Furthermore, the Court found no clear error in the district court's rejection of BOG's claim for breach of the implied covenant and fair dealing. View "Bowers Oil & Gas, Inc. v. DCP Douglas, LLC" on Justia Law

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John and Minerva Sutherland entered into a mining lease granting Meridian Granite Company the right to conduct mining operations on the Sutherlands' property. A dispute developed between the Sutherlands and Meridian regarding the Sutherlands' obligation to pay taxes relating to the mineral production. The dispute led to litigation. The district court granted Meridian's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the Sutherlands were obligated to pay the disputed taxes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in allowing Meridian to deduct ad valorem and severance taxes from payments to the Sutherlands when such tax payments were not required by the State, as the Sutherlands and Meridian agreed in the mining lease that the Sutherlands would pay the taxes. View "Sutherland v. Meridian Granite Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant, Whitney Holding Corporation, challenged a decision of the district court quieting title in a certain mineral estate in favor of Appellees, Clarence and Peggy Terry. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that the parties intended, and the limited warranty deed conveying the property from Whitney to the Terrys reflected, that Whitney did not reserve a mineral interest in the property; (2) the district court properly determined that the deed was ambiguous and did not err in considering extrinsic evidence to interpret the deed; and (3) the Terrys' quiet title action was not barred by the statute of limitations. View "Whitney Holding Corp. v. Terry" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a decision rendered by the State Board of Equalization (Board) concerning the valuation point for tax purposes of the natural gas production from the LaBarge Field. The Supreme Court remanded the issue to the Board of whether the meters located at the LaBarge Field well sites were "custody transfer meters" as defined by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-14-203(b)(iv) or volume meters for Exxon's share of gas production. The Board held (1) the meters were not custody transfer meters for Exxon's share of gas production, and (2) the same meters were custody transfer meters for the gas produced by two other working interest owners, petroleum companies, who were not parties to the action. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the Board's determination that the meters were not custody transfer meters for Exxon's gas where the Board's determination harmonized with precedent established in Amoco Prod. Co. v. Dep't of Revenue; but (2) reversed the Board's determination that the meters were custody transfer meters for the petroleum companies' gas because the Board did not have the authority to determine the valuation point for "non-party" persons or entities that do not appeal their tax assessments. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Celeste Grynberg and her husband were co-owners of Grynberg Petroleum. Celeste filed a complaint for declaratory relief, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion against L&R Exploration Venture and numerous individuals and entities having an interest in the venture (collectively L&R), claiming that L&R owed her compensation for services Grynberg Petroleum provided to L&R and that she was entitled to payment of those amounts. The district court granted summary judgment for L&R and dismissed the complaint on the basis of res judicata, finding that Celeste was in privity with parties involved in prior litigation in Colorado and New York and her complaint involved the same subject matter and issues resolved in those proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Celeste was in privity with her husband, who was a party in the New York proceedings, as the assignee of his interest in L&R and with Grynberg Petroleum as the co-owner of the company and was bound by the prior rulings. View "Grynberg v. L&R Exploration Venture" on Justia Law