United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
S. MAURICE HICKS, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant Samson Contour Energy E&P, L.L.C.'s ("Samson Contour Energy") Rule 12(b)(7) Motion to Dismiss for Plaintiff's Failure to Join a Party under Rule 19. See Record Document 7. Samson Contour Energy argues that Plaintiff Ira Lee Parker Wilson ("Wilson") failed to join parties whose interests in the subject matter are so interrelated, and would be so directly affected by the judgment, that a complete and equitable adjudication of the controversy cannot be made unless such persons are joined in the action. See id. Thus, Samson Contour Energy seeks dismissal of Wilson's claims. See id. Alternatively, Samson Contour Energy requests that the complaint must be amended to add additional parties and cure its pleading defects. See id.
Wilson has opposed the motion, arguing that complete relief is possible among the existing original parties. See Record Document 9 at 4. Alternatively, Wilson requests that "if the Court refuses to deny defendant's motion, plaintiff then requests she be allowed a reasonable time to file an amending pleading adding the sixteen parties which are claimed by Samson [Contour Energy] to be indispensable." Id. at 9.
For the reasons which follow, the Rule 12(b)(7) Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Samson Contour Energy's request for dismissal is DENIED. However, its alternative request for the complaint to be amended to add additional parties and cure its pleading defects is GRANTED.
Wilson filed suit against Samson Contour Energy in the 26th Judicial District Court, Webster Parish, Louisiana on December 13, 2013. See Record Document 1-2. Wilson alleges that Samson Contour Energy failed to fully compensate her for the oil and gas that it obtained from her four acre tract of land. See id. at 1. Samson Contour Energy only paid her for 17/48ths of the past oil and gas production attributable to her four acres because, according to Wilson, Samson Contour Energy contends that she only owns 17/48ths of the tract's mineral rights. See id. at 3.
Wilson argues that she owns 100% of the mineral rights to the four acre tract. See id. She claims that she "purchased [the] four acre tract along with all mineral rights under said tract on or about May 30, 1981, from... the Harvey heirs.'" Id . Wilson acknowledges that an individual named Jack Harvey sold four separate mineral servitudes on the tract to W.M. Nicholson prior to her purchase, but claims that those servitudes "have long since prescribed." Id. at 5. She explains: "All four mineral servitudes prescribed after ten years passed from the date of the last Nicholson servitude which was created in June of 1950. [Wilson] became the owner of 100% of all of the minerals under the said four acre tract in June of 1960. The four Nicholson servitudes all prescribed because of a ten year gap of non-use' of the minerals." Id.
Wilson alleges that "no oil or gas well has ever been drilled on the surface of [her] four acre tract, " but points out that "[i]t has been [Samson Contour Energy's] continued argument that oil and gas production from several production units which included [Wilson's] four acre tract maintained all four of these Nicholson servitudes up to the present date without a ten year prescriptive gap." Id. at 5, 6. In response to Samson Contour Energy's argument, Wilson avers that prescription was never interrupted because no valid production units were ever created. Id. at 6. No valid units were created because, according to Wilson, no individual or entity ever filed any written unit declaration in the conveyance records, and even if an individual or entity did file a unit declaration, "it would not be valid as to [Wilson's] acreage because she did not sign or join in any such unit agreement." Id . In short, the two production units that Samson Contour Energy allegedly relies on "to interrupt the ten year prescription period were actually never valid' units and thus did not and could not, as a matter of law, interrupt the prescriptive period on the four Nicholson servitudes." Id . As a result, Wilson seeks, inter alia, all amounts that Samson Contour Energy owes "for her proportionate share of oil and gas production represented by her 100% ownership interest in her said four acre tract." Id. at 13.
On February 28, 2014, Samson Contour Energy filed a Rule 12(b)(7) Motion to Dismiss due to Wilson's failure to join the putative owners of the four mineral servitudes. See Record Document 7. Samson Contour Energy argues that the putative owners of the mineral servitudes-16 individuals according to Samson Contour Energy's search of its own records-are necessary parties pursuant to Rule 19 because the outcome of the instant dispute depends upon who actually owns the rights to the minerals. See id. Samson Contour Energy states, "[Wilson] claims to own 100% of the mineral rights affecting the Property, thus placing at issue the ownership and payment of the disputed 31/48ths interest." Record Document 7-1 at 2. Samson Contour Energy explains:
[Wilson's] ownership and accounting claims are based on its claim of ownership of the mineral rights that would have reverted to [Wilson] if and only if the four mineral servitudes, indeed, prescribed for non-use as [Wilson] claims. This claim is directly opposed to the position of the Servitude Owners that their servitudes have been maintained with no gaps of more than ten years in use thereof. The question of actual ownership of the mineral rights of the Property must necessarily be adjudicated before the payment and accounting issues pled against Samson [Contour Energy] are reached.
Id. at 7. Thus, Samson Contour Energy argues that a complete and equitable adjudication of the controversy is not possible unless the putative servitude owners are joined because the absent owners will be directly affected by a judgment in Wilson's favor. See id. at 3. Samson Contour Energy also argues, "The failure to join the mineral servitude owners as parties... will  leave [it], as an existing party, open to the substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or inconsistent obligations due to the interest of the Servitude Owners." Id. at 8.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
I. Rule 12(b)(7) and Rule 19 Standards.
Rule 12(b)(7) allows dismissal for failure to join a party under Rule 19. Rule 19 provides for the joinder of all parties whose presence in a lawsuit is required for the fair and complete resolution of the dispute at issue. It also provides for the dismissal of the suit if it should not proceed without the parties who cannot be joined. See HS ...