Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hill v. TMR Exploration, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 13, 2017

CALVIN J. HILL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE EXECUTOR OF THE SUCCESSION OF ELNORA JOHNSON HILL
v.
TMR EXPLORATION, INC., PARK EXPLORATION, INC., AND VITOL RESOURCES, INC.

         Appealed from the 18th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana Trial Court Number 41, 245 Honorable James J. Best, Judge

          Brent K. Delee Kirby J. Guidry Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Appellants Plaintiffs - Calvin J. Hill, et al.

          Randall S. Davidson Wm Lake Hearne, Jr. Shreveport, Louisiana and Scotty E. Chabert, Jr. Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Appellee Defendant - Raymond J. Lasseigne

          BEFORE: WELCH, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.

          WELCH, J.

         The plaintiffs/appellants, Calvin Hill, et al, ("plaintiffs")[1] appeal a trial court judgment denying their motion for new trial from a judgment sustaining a peremptory exception raising the objection of prescription filed by the defendant/appellee, Raymond J. Lasseigne ("Lasseigne") and defendant, TMR Exploration, Inc. ("TMR"). The trial court's action resulted in the dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims against Lasseigne with prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This matter involves a claim for subsurface trespass. The plaintiffs are the owners of various undivided interests in a 22.768 acre tract of immovable property more particularly described as being located in the North 1/3 of Lot 5, Section 93, Township 7 South, Range 10 East, Parish of West Baton Rouge ("plaintiffs' property"). The plaintiffs all trace their ownership interests to the Successions of Peter Hill and Elnora Johnson Hill. In May of 2007, the Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation ("Commissioner") granted TMR, a Texas corporation, a permit to drill for the minerals in Section 93, Township 7 South, Range 10 East. The plaintiffs alleged that TMR's permit application erroneously identified "A. Wilbert's Sons, LLC" as the sole owners of all property located in Section 93, Township 7 South, Range 10 East, thus, failing to acknowledge the plaintiffs' ownership interests in the section.

          The plaintiffs further alleged that TMR filed an amended permit with the Commissioner in June of 2007, identifying the proposed bottom of the hole at certain proposed coordinates. On May 18, 2007, a permit to drill the well designated as the "A. Wilbert's Sons, LLC, 93 No. 1" was issued, and the well began production in January of 2008. According to the plaintiffs, TMR intended to drill directionally to the proposed coordinates; however, ultimately the bottom of the hole of the well was completed at a location underneath the plaintiffs' property without their knowledge or permission.[2]

         TMR operated the well until July 1, 2010, and following the issuance of an amended permit to drill by the Commissioner, Park Exploration, Inc. ("Park") was designated as the second operator of the well. Park, in turn, operated the well until an amended permit, effective December 1, 2012, was issued by the Commissioner designating Vitol Resources, Inc. ("Vitol") as the third operator of the well. The plaintiffs allege that TMR and the two successor operators produced and sold the minerals drained from underneath the plaintiffs' property from the well without the plaintiffs' knowledge or permission.

         The plaintiffs contend that since the bottom of the well was directionally drilled and is located approximately two miles underneath the plaintiffs' property there is no indication of its presence from the surface of the plaintiffs' property. The plaintiffs allege that these factors prevented them from learning of the presence of the bottom hole of the well underneath their property until December 19, 2013, when their attorney was informed of the situation by a surveyor.

          The plaintiffs filed their original petition on February 4, 2014. TMR, Park, and Vitol were named as the sole defendants in the original petition. On July 10, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a First Supplemental and Amending Petition, which named Raymond J. Lasseigne, the president of TMR, as an individual defendant. The plaintiffs subsequently filed several supplemental and amending petitions, adding more parties, as well as modifying and amending their claims.[3]

         At issue in the instant appeal are allegations against Lasseigne in the plaintiffs' Second Supplemental and Amending Petition filed on December 28, 2014, alleging various acts and omissions by Lasseigne. The plaintiffs alleged that Lasseigne acting within the course and scope of his employment, directed and/or coordinated the operations of TMR, including the employees of TMR, in connection with the drilling and production of the minerals from underneath plaintiffs' property. Further, the plaintiffs alleged that Lasseigne "knew" of the plaintiffs' ownership interests in Section 93, but made a "conscious decision" to not pursue obtaining leases from the plaintiffs after being presented with information concerning how many owners there were. The plaintiffs also contended that Lasseigne with "gross disregard" directed that the well be drilled to its final location. Finally, the plaintiffs alleged that Lasseigne "had actual, or constructive knowledge, or is presumed to know" that the bottom of the hole was located underneath their property, and that he knew or should have known that the minerals being produced were coming from underneath the plaintiffs' property.

         Two interventions were filed in the instant action by parties also claiming to be owners of various undivided interests in the property located in Section 93. The intervenors also claimed that their interests in the property at issue devolved from the Successions of Peter Hill and Elnora Hill Johnson.[4] On February 18, 2015, TMR and Lasseigne filed various exceptions to the claims against Lasseigne in plaintiffs' Second Supplemental and Amending Petition, including peremptory exceptions raising the objections of no cause of action and prescription.[5]

         The exception of no cause of action asserted that Lasseigne, as a corporate officer, could not be sued personally by third parties for acts of negligence related to the operations of TMR. As to the exception of prescription, TMR and Lasseigne, operating off the presumption that an officer cannot be sued by third parties for negligence, argued any other tort claims, presumably intentional tort claims, were prescribed under La. R.S. 12:1502(D). Louisiana Revised Statutes 12:1502 addresses prescriptive periods applicable to certain claims against persons who control business organizations.[6] TMR and Lasseigne asserted that under La. R.S. 12:1502(D), an action for intentional tort against a corporate officer cannot be brought "more than three years from the date of the alleged act or omission, " and the time limitations provided under the statute are not subject to suspension or interruption on any ground except by the timely filing of suit in a court of competent jurisdiction. TMR and Lasseigne's exception concluded that Lasseigne's involvement with the well terminated on June 30, 2010 when TMX ceased to be the operator of the well, thus, any cause of action against him prescribed on June 30, 2013.

         Following a May 6, 2015 hearing, the trial court overruled TMR and Lasseigne's exception of no cause of action as to the individual claims against Lasseigne. However, at a separate hearing on June 3, 2015, the trial court sustained TMR and Lasseigne's exception of prescription as to all of the claims against Lasseigne. At that time, the trial court adopted the arguments advocated by TMR and Lasseigne and sustained the exception of prescription. In a judgment signed on July 1, 2015, the trial court sustained the "peremptory exception of prescription of any claims" against Lasseigne and dismissed with prejudice "any claims against" Lasseigne pursuant to La. R.S. 12:1501 and 12:1502.[7] The July 1, 2015 judgment also contained the written judgment overruling the exception of no cause of action. Lasseigne has not sought review of this portion of the trial court's judgment.

         The plaintiffs filed a motion for new trial seeking only reconsideration of the trial court's decision to sustain the exception of prescription. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion for new trial in a judgment signed September 17, 2015. On October 27, 2015, the plaintiffs filed the instant devolutive appeal challenging the trial court's denial of their motion for new trial on the issue of La. R.S. 12:1502.[8] The plaintiffs assert that the trial court erred in the following respects: in applying La. R.S. 12:1502 in peremptory fashion; applying the provisions of La. R.S. 12:1502 to Lasseigne, an officer of a foreign corporation; failing to apply the more specific prescriptive statute applicable to claims for damages to immovable property, La. C.C. art. 3493; and failing to recognize the applicability of the doctrine of contra non valentem under the particular facts of this case. Only Lasseigne has filed ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.