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Geer v. BP America Prod. Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 5, 2014

BETTY HEBERT GEER, KAREN WHEAT, HEBERT-GEER COMPANY, LLC, AND DOROTHY HEBERT TOLBERT
v.
BP AMERICA PRODUCTION COMPANY, W & T OFFSHORE, INC., AND HOUSTON OIL & GAS COMPANY, INC

APPEAL FROM THIRTY-EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF CAMERON, NO. 10-18439. HONORABLE PENELOPE RICHARD, DISTRICT JUDGE.

James P. Dore', Alan J. Berteau, Kean Miller, LLP, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: BP America Production Company.

Jacob L. Johnson, The Law Office of Jacob L. Johnson, L.L.C., Grand Lake, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: BP America Production Company.

Donald T. Carmouche, Victor L. Marcelllo, John H. Carmouche, William R. Coenen, III, Brian T. Carmouche, Todd J. Wimberley, Ross J. Donnes, D. Adele Owen, Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Betty Hebert Geer, Karen Wheat, Hebert-Geer Company, LLC, and Dorothy Hebert Tolbert.

Chad E. Mudd, David P. Bruchhaus, M. Keith Prudhomme, Mudd & Bruchhaus, L.L.C., Lake Charles, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Betty Hebert Geer, Karen Wheat, Hebert-Geer Company, LLC, and Dorothy Hebert Tolbert.

Leonard Knapp, Jr., A Professional Law Corporation, Lake Charles, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Betty Hebert Geer, Karen Wheat, Hebert-Geer Company, LLC, and Dorothy Hebert Tolbert.

Winfred Thomas Barrett, III, Lake Charles, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR INTERVENORS/APPELLEES: Marck Smythe and Glenn W. Alexander.

Court composed of J. David Painter, James T. Genovese, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.

OPINION

Page 622

[14-450 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] GENOVESE, Judge.

Defendant, BP America Production Company (BP), appeals the trial court's grant of a motion to enforce a settlement agreement filed on behalf of Plaintiffs, Karen Wheat, individually and in her capacity as executrix for the Succession of Betty Hebert Geer, the Hebert-Geer Company, LLC, Nancy M. Toerner, Dorothy Hebert Tolbert, and Intervenors, Marck Smythe[1] and Glenn W. Alexander. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs and Intervenors (collectively referred to as Geer) are landowners who

Page 623

instituted this lawsuit against BP and others[2] for damages to their property located in Calcasieu Parish, allegedly caused by oil and gas exploration and production on their property. The matter was scheduled for trial on the merits for January 21, 2013. On January 4, 2013, Geer's counsel advised the trial court that following mediation, the parties had reached " a tentative agreement to resolve the litigation[; ]" thus, they had mutually agreed to continue the trial, and they " expect[ed] to have a completed settlement document in the very near future."

In the ensuing months, the parties' counsel exchanged drafts of a proposed written settlement agreement. On June 19, 2013, pursuant to La.R.S. 30:29(J)(1),[3] [14-450 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] correspondence authored by counsel for BP was sent to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) stating:

Enclosed is a settlement agreement between plaintiffs and BP America Production Company (" BP" ) in the above referenced case. This agreement has not yet been signed by the parties, but the substantive provisions regarding any work to be done on the property will not be changed. The settlement contemplates a cash payment to plaintiffs, with BP assuming primary cleanup responsibility for the west side of the property. A settlement between plaintiffs and W& T/Houston that contemplated cleanup of the east side of the property by Houston has previously been submitted. Your office has already issued a letter of no objection with respect to the W& T/Houston settlement.

As indicated therein, the settlement agreement was attached thereto.[4] On July 31, 2013, LDNR issued a " no objection" letter to the trial court relative to the settlement agreement.

On August 19, 2013, Geer filed a Motion for Approval of Settlement between Plaintiffs and BP America Production Company with the trial court, and a hearing on the motion was scheduled for August 28, 2013. On August 27, 2013, counsel for BP notified Geer's counsel that BP would not approve the settlement agreement.

On August 28, 2013, a Motion to Enforce Settlement between Plaintiffs and BP America Production Company was filed on behalf of Geer. On January 8, 2014, the trial court heard Geer's motion. Overruling objections raised by BP as to the use of parol evidence, the trial court admitted several attachments to Geer's ...


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