JERRY J. SUIRE, ET AL.
OLEUM OPERATING COMPANY, ET AL.
FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
CALCASIEU, NO. 2007-697 HONORABLE RONALD F. WARE, DISTRICT
P. Hebert Paul Matthew Jones Brian W. Capell Liskow &
Lewis Counsel for Defendants/Appellants: Oleum Operating
Company, L.C. AKSM, L.C.
Wall Jonathan R. Cook Maurine Wall Laborde Wall, Bullington
& Cook, LLC Counsel for Defendant/Appellant: Sweet Lake
Land & Oil Company, L.L.C.
Chadwick W. Collings C. Randall Loewen Milling Benson
Woodward L.L.P. Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees: Jerry J.
Suire Antonia Suire J & J Onshore Production, Inc.
P. Furr Edward D. Hughes Taylor, Porter, Brooks, &
Phillips, LLP Counsel for Intervenors/Appellees: Preston
Andrews Price Susan R. Price Steven Haller Paula Haller.
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M.
Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.
PHYLLIS M. KEATY, JUDGE
suit for damages arising out of a mineral lease, the current
operators/lessees, Oleum Operating Company, L.C. and AKSM,
L.C., and the owner/lessor, Sweet Lake Land & Oil
Company, L.L.C., appeal the trial court's grant of a
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment in favor of the
overriding royalty interest (ORI) owners, Jerry J. Suire,
Antonia Suire, J & J Onshore Production, Inc.,
Preston Andrews Price, Susan R. Price, Steven Haller, and
Paula Haller. For the following reasons, the trial
court's judgment is affirmed.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
court is familiar with the factual and procedural history in
light of Suire v. Oleum Operating Co.,
L.C., 13-736 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/5/14), 135 So.3d 87,
writs denied, 14-982 (La. 8/25/14), 147
So.3d 1120 and 14-987 (La. 9/12/14), 147 So.3d 707. As the
facts have not materially changed since that opinion, we
adopt the facts set forth therein by reference as though set
forth in full herein:
This litigation involves the alleged failure of Oleum
Operating Company, L.C. and AKSM, L.C. (collectively referred
to as Oleum)to pay the overriding royalty interest
(ORI) due Jerry J. and Antonia G. Suire, Preston Andrews and
Susan R. Price, and Steven and Paula Haller (collectively
referred to as ORI owners). The property subject to the
mineral lease at issue is located in Calcasieu Parish, and
the owner/lessor of the property is Sweet Lake Land & Oil
Company (Sweet Lake). The current operator/lessee is Oleum.
The present parties' interests stem from the execution of
a mineral lease in 1947 by Sweet Lake and J.A.
Since 1947, there have been several different
operators/lessees of the property owned by Sweet Lake. A
portion of the ORI at issue in this litigation was created in
1989, when Flash Oil & Gas granted an ORI to its owners,
Preston Price and Steven Haller (and their wives Susan R.
Price and Paula Haller), collectively amounting to 2.0153%,
and a 3% ORI to Jerry Suire.  In later years, J & J Onshore
Production, Inc. (J & J) became the operator/lessee of
the Old Lease, and it continued to pay the ORI to the Flash
Over time, the relationship between Sweet Lake and J & J,
particularly Mr. Suire, became strained, and, in 2000, Sweet
Lake sued J & J, claiming that the Old Lease was
terminated. In that litigation, Sweet Lake also
alleged that J & J failed to pay royalties, failed to
develop the property, and failed to produce oil and gas in
paying quantities. During this contentious period, Oleum
became involved when it purchased J & J's operating
interest and assigned an additional ORI to Mr. Suire.
Ultimately, in 2003, a settlement agreement was reached
between Sweet Lake, J & J, and Oleum wherein the terms,
rights, and obligations of the parties under the Old Lease
were changed. For five years thereafter, Oleum continued
as operator/lessee until further disputes arose between it
and Sweet Lake in 2008.
In 2008, Sweet Lake sent a letter to Oleum, claiming that it
violated the terms of the 1947 Amended Lease. Sweet Lake
demanded that Oleum vacate the property and return all fruits
derived from the 1947 Amended Lease, dating back to 2003. At
this juncture, negotiations ensued between Sweet Lake and
Oleum. As a result of these negotiations, on July 2, 2008,
Oleum unilaterally executed an Act of Release of Oil, Gas and
Mineral Lease thereby releasing the 1947 Amended
Lease. The 2008 Release was executed without the
knowledge of the ORI owners, who, as a result thereby, were
divested of all of their ORI. Also on July 2, 2008, another
lease was entered into by Oleum, through Mike Snell, an owner
and operator. Notably, Mr. Snell transferred the
divested ORI owners' rights to himself, personally, in
the New Lease. The consequences of the 2008 Release and the
New Lease are at the heart of the current litigation.
As a result of these events, suit was instituted by the
Suires against Oleum and AKSM, initially seeking unpaid ORI,
penalties, and attorney fees. After the initial petition was
filed, a number of incidental demands were made by and
against the various parties. Claims of intervention were
asserted by the Prices and the Hallers for their unpaid ORI,
penalties, and attorney fees. Oleum filed a reconventional
demand against the Suires, asserting that it was entitled to
an offset and/or recoupment of ORI payments made to Mr. Suire
and, further, that their ORI was subject to a reduction based
upon the [proportionate reduction clause]. Oleum later
supplemented its reconventional demand against the Suires,
seeking damages for a misrepresentation of the condition of
the C-8 wellbore.
Oleum also filed a third party claim against J & J,
claiming that it was entitled to a reimbursement of the ORI
payments erroneously made to J & J. Alternatively, Oleum
asserted that if it were determined that it had improperly
taken certain offsets, that these amounts were still owed by
J & J to Oleum. Claims were also made against J & J
for damages relative to the C-8 wellbore.
J & J filed a reconventional demand against Oleum,
alleging that Oleum breached the terms of their May 15, 2000
Purchase and Sale Agreement, whereby J & J sold its
interest in the 1947 Amended Lease to Oleum by failing to pay
Mr. Suire his 1.98% ORI and in failing to provide J & J
notice of its attempt to release the lease. Further, J &
J contended that Oleum's failure to obtain J &
J's agreement was a breach of the 2003 settlement
. . . .
After a trial on the merits, the trial court recited oral
reasons for judgment in favor of the ORI owners and dismissed
the other ancillary claims between the parties. In accordance
therewith, the trial court signed a judgment October 15,
Id. at 89-92.
parties appealed, and this court issued a ruling on February
5, 2014. Suire, 135 So.3d 87. Therein, this court
affirmed the trial court's judgment ordering payment to
the Suires, Prices, and Hallers of past-due ORIs
"through July 2, 2008." Id. at 104. It
reversed the trial court's judgment with respect to
payment of past-due ORIs "post 2008 Release and New
Lease (i.e., July 2, 2008)." Id. The third
circuit found that Sweet Lake was "a party needed for
just adjudication[.]" Id. at 96. On rehearing,
this court supplemented its previous disposition by
"ordering a remand of the matter to the trial court for
further proceedings." Id. at 105. Writs were
then denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court on August 25, 2014
and September 12, 2014. Id.
remand to the trial court, the ORI owners amended their
petitions and named Sweet Lake and Michael Snell as
additional Defendants. Oleum and Mr. Snell filed exceptions
of res judicata and no cause of action-law of the case.
Following a hearing on June 15, 2015, and pursuant to a
written judgment rendered on July 1, 2015, the trial court
denied the exceptions. Writs were denied by both this court
and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Suire v. Oleum,
15-667 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/2/15) and 15-2011 (La. 12/7/15).
April 11, 2016, the Suires and J & J Onshore filed a
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, which was subsequently
adopted by the Hallers and Prices. Oleum and Sweet Lake filed
oppositions. The ORI owners filed reply memorandums,
objecting to certain exhibits attached to Oleum and Sweet
Lake's opposition memorandums. The Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment was ultimately granted in favor of the ORI
owners following a hearing on July 18, 2016. A written
judgment was signed on August 15, 2016. Thereafter, Oleum and
Sweet Lake filed motions for a new trial, which were denied
by the trial court on October 11, 2016. Oleum and Sweet Lake
appealed the trial court's judgment.
appeal, Oleum asserts the following assignments of error:
1. The trial court erred in granting Plaintiffs' Motion
and ruling that the 2008 Release and the 2008 [Top] Lease are
null and void.
2. The trial court erred in granting Plaintiffs' Motion
and ruling that the Old Lease has been maintained in force
3. The trial court erred in granting Plaintiffs' Motion
and ruling that Plaintiffs' overriding royalty interests
remain in full force and effect.
4. The trial court erred in refusing to consider trial
testimony from this case when ruling upon Plaintiff's
5. The district court erred by considering the Invalid
Release Theory raised by Plaintiffs' Motion and denying
Oleum and AKSM's Exception of Res Judicata
because the judgment previously rendered by this Court
denying the claim is final and controlling.
6. The district court erred by considering the Invalid
Release Theory raised by Plaintiffs' Motion and denying
Oleum and AKSM's Exception of No Cause of Action based on
the Law of the Case Doctrine because the judgment previously
rendered by this Court has already rejected the claim in this
Lake asserts the following assignments of error:
1. The trial court erroneously granted plaintiffs'
partial summary judgment that the  Release and 2008
[Top] Lease are null and void because they were signed
without J & J's consent.
2. The trial court erred in granting plaintiffs' partial
summary judgment that the  Lease has been maintained in
force and effect in accordance with its terms.
3. The trial court improperly excluded the certified records
of the Office of Conservation offered by [Sweet Lake] in
opposition to plaintiffs' ...