CALVIN J. HILL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE EXECUTOR OF THE SUCCESSION OF ELNORA JOHNSON HILL
TMR EXPLORATION, INC., PARK EXPLORATION, INC., AND VITOL RESOURCES, INC.
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
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.
plaintiffs/appellants, Calvin Hill, et al,
("plaintiffs") 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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'
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. 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.
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. 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,
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. 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.
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. 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 ...