United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
ELIZABETH FRY FRANKLIN, ET AL.
L. HAYES MAG. JUDGE.
A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Objection to Magistrate's
Memorandum Order on Defendant's Motion to Disqualify
Counsel (“Appeal”) [Doc. No. 37] filed by
Plaintiffs Elizabeth Fry Franklin, Small Fry, L.L.C., Cynthia
Fry Peironnet, and Cynthia F. Peironnet Family, L.L.C.
following reasons, Plaintiffs' Appeal is DENIED, and
Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes' April 18, 2018
Memorandum Order [Doc. No. 33] is AFFIRMED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August 5, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit against their former
agent, Defendant Regions Bank (“Regions”).
Plaintiff Eleanor Baugnies de St. Marceaux
(“Marceaux”) filed a nearly identical suit
against the same Defendant approximately one year later. The
suits were consolidated by a January 12, 2018 order of the
served as Plaintiffs' agent with regard to mineral leases
of their 5/6 ownership of 1, 805.34 acres in Caddo Parish,
Louisiana (“the Property”). In that capacity,
Regions executed an extension of a 2004 mineral lease in
favor of a third party, Matador Resources Company
(“Matador”). It was Plaintiffs' intent for
the extension to apply to certain undeveloped acreage and
only to the depth of the Cotton Valley formation. However,
the lease that Regions signed as Plaintiffs' agent
included developed acreage and extended to greater
April or early May 2008, Regions, acting through its Senior
Vice President, Joseph Hand (“Hand”), contacted
the Davidson, Jones & Summer law firm (“DJS”)
and set up a meeting to discuss whether Regions could lease
Plaintiffs' mineral interests to other oil companies. On
May 6, 2018, Randy Davidson, a partner at DJS, sent a
conflict waiver letter to Hand, explaining that the firm had
been engaged to render services to clients, Cynthia Fry
Peironnet (“Peironnet”) and Elizabeth Fry
Franklin (“Franklin”), in connection with a
lawsuit against Matador, that Regions would serve as the
clients' agent, but that DJS's “representation
in the Lawsuit will be limited to representation of the
Clients' interests.” [Doc. No. 33, p. 13]. The
conflict waiver letter was sent to Hand, who executed the
letter that same day. [Doc. No. 34-2].
then forwarded its Contract for Services and Letter of
Representation to Hand on May 9, 2008, which also identified
Peironnet and Franklin as DJS' clients “in
connection with a dispute over the validity of a certain
Amendment of Oil & Gas Lease by and between . . .
Peironnet, et al. and Matador.” [Doc. No. 26-3]. Hand
signed the contract.
on May 15, 2008, Randy Davidson and Grant Summers of DJS
filed suit on behalf of Peironnet and Franklin (and were
later joined by Marceaux) against Matador in state court to
rescind or reform the lease extension.
Memorandum Order, Magistrate Judge Hayes correctly states the
applicable law and rules. Despite the express conflict waiver
and contract provisions, Magistrate Judge Hayes noted that
there were ambiguous references in the contract references to
“you” or “your, ” which could also
refer to Regions. Further, in Magistrate Judge Hayes'
detailed Memorandum Order, she set forth extensive facts and
details supporting the finding that Regions reasonably
believed that DJS represented it as well as Peironnet and
Franklin. During the pendency of the lawsuit, Hand
specifically met with Allison Jones, another partner at DJS,
had telephone calls with her, and attended meetings in the
conference room at DJS.
the jury returned a verdict against Peironnet and Franklin in
September 2010, Jones advised them privately that they had a
claim against Regions. Jones left her partnership at DJS in
2016 and became a partner at Downer, Jones, Marino &
Wilhite (“Downer”). She and her new partners now
seek to represent Plaintiffs in this matter.
LAW AND ANALYSIS