FROM THE THIRTY-FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
JEFFERSON DAVIS, NO. 705-11 HONORABLE J. BYRON HEBERT,
T. Carmouche Victor L. Marcello John H. Carmouche William R.
Coenen, III Brian T. Carmouche Todd J. Wimberley Ross J.
Donnes D. Adele Owen Leah C. Poole Caroline H. Martin
Christopher D. Martin Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello
Counsel For Plaintiff/Appellant: Grace Ranch, LLC
E. Mudd David P. Bruchhaus M. Keith Prudhomme Matthew P.
Keating Mudd & Bruchhaus, L.L.C. Counsel for
Plaintiff/Appellant: Grace Ranch, LLC
Duhon Ike Huval Duhon Law Firm COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Shirley Poirier Van Way, in her
capacity as Independent Testamentary Executor of the
Succession of J.P. Van Way
Arceneaux, III Penny L. Malbrew Court VanTassell Brittan J.
Bush Liskow & Lewis Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: BP
America Production Company
L. McNamara Kelly B. Becker Kathryn Z. Gonski Liskow &
Lewis Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: BP America Production
Keith Jarrett Kelly T. Scalise Liskow & Lewis Counsel for
Defendant/Appellee: BHP Billiton Petroleum (Americas) Inc.
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M.
Keaty, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.
Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, concurs in the result reached.
PHYLLIS M. KEATY, JUDGE
oilfield legacy litigation, Plaintiff appeals the trial
court's judgment granting motions for summary judgment
and an exception of no right of action in favor of
Defendants. For the following reasons, the trial court's
judgment is affirmed.
& PROCEDURAL HISTORY
mineral law case involves forty acres of immovable property
located in Jefferson Davis Parish of which Grace Ranch, LLC
("Grace Ranch") is the owner. On October 10, 2011,
Grace Ranch filed suit in contract and tort for contamination
of its property resulting from the historical oil and gas
exploration and production activities of multiple defendants,
including J.P. Van Way ("JPVW"), BP America
Production Company ("BP"), and BHP Billiton
Petroleum (Americas), Inc. ("BHP") (collectively
"Defendants"), pursuant to valid mineral leases.
forty acres at issue was part of an approximate 166-acre
tract ("subject tract") of immovable property owned
by Ellen M. Davies in 1915. In 1944, Ms. Davies, as the
lessor, executed a mineral lease with John J. Doyle, as the
lessee ("subject lease"). That same year, Doyle
assigned the subject lease to Stanolind Oil and Gas Company
("Stanolind"), BP's predecessor. In 1957,
Stanolind merged into Pan American Petroleum Company
("Pan American"). In 1969, Pan American assigned
the subject lease to Clinton Oil Company ("Clinton
Oil"), BHP's predecessor. In 1972, Clinton Oil
released all of its rights in the subject lease except for
the forty acres at issue in this matter. In 1976, Clinton Oil
changed its name to Energy Reserves Group, Inc.
("Energy"). In 1977, Energy assigned the subject
lease to Tommy Littlepage Oil Properties ("Littlepage
Oil"). In 1978, Littlepage Oil assigned half of its
working interest in the subject lease to Jack Williams Pipe
and Supply Company. In 1984, Littlepage Oil assigned the
remaining half of its working interest to JPVW. The subject
lease expired in 1985 or 1986 due to non-production.
respect to the surface and mineral ownership of the subject
tract, it was acquired by Ms. Davies' heirs in 1971. In
1972, Ms. Davies' heirs sold the same to Donald J.
Leblanc and Janet Sue Cagle Leblanc ("the
Leblancs"), reserving for themselves "all of the
oil, gas and other mineral in, on or under said property,
together with the right of ingress and egress for the purpose
of exercising this mineral servitude." In 1973 and 1974,
the Leblancs sold the subject tract to General Farms, Inc.
("General Farms"), subject to any outstanding
servitudes and reservations of minerals and leases. In 1995,
General Farms acquired one hundred percent of the minerals
arising from the termination of the Davies servitude. In
1999, General Farms and the Leblancs transferred the subject
tract to Daniel and Jeralyn Ewing ("the Ewings"),
reserving an undivided one-half interest in the minerals. The
Ewings subsequently sold the subject tract to Grace Ranch in
2006, subject to their one-half interest in the minerals.
Grace Ranch acquired one half of the minerals in 2009 as a
result of the expiration of General Farms' one-half
mineral servitude. Grace Ranch acquired the other half of the
minerals in 2016 as a result of the expiration of the
Ewings' one-half mineral servitude.
2013, approximately two years after filing suit, Grace Ranch
sought and obtained assignments of rights in tort and
contract from General Farms and the Leblancs, or their heirs
and assigns. On January 13, 2017, approximately four years
after obtaining the assignments, Grace Ranch filed its First
Amended Petition for Damages to assert its assigned claims.
Defendants subsequently filed motions for summary judgment,
seeking dismissal of Grace Ranch's suit. Additionally,
JPVW filed an Exception of No Right of Action, seeking
dismissal on similar grounds. The trial court heard the
motions and exception on June 14, 2017, and took them under
advisement. Pursuant to the trial court's written reasons
for judgment dated July 12, 2017, and its subsequent judgment
dated September 16, 2017, the trial court granted the motions
and exception and dismissed Grace Ranch's case with
prejudice. Grace Ranch appealed.
appeal, Grace Ranch asserts the following assignments of
1. The trial court committed error in dismissing the
plaintiff's claims on the basis of the subsequent
2. The trial court committed error in failing to find that
plaintiff has a right of action based on its assignments from
prior owners of the surface and minerals.
3. The trial court committed error in finding that the
assignment from General Farms to plaintiff was invalid based
on General Farms' affidavit of dissolution.
4. The trial court committed error in relying in part on
prescription in dismissing the claims of the plaintiff
because prescription was not at issue.
5. The trial court committed error in applying the
jurisprudential subsequent purchaser rule under circumstances
where the Civil Code and Mineral Code provide statutory
support for plaintiff's right of action.
appellate court utilizes the de novo standard of review when
reviewing a trial court's judgment on a motion for
summary judgment. Gray v. Am. Nat'l Prop. & Cas.
Co., 07-1670 (La. 2/26/08), 977 So.2d 839. The appellate
court uses "the same criteria that govern the trial
court's consideration of whether summary judgment is
appropriate, i.e., whether there is a genuine issue of
material fact and whether the mover is entitled to a judgment
as a matter of law." Id. at 844 (quoting
Supreme Servs. & Specialty Co., Inc. v. Greer,
06-1827, p. 4 (La. 5/22/07), 958 So.2d 634, 638). An
appellate court must be mindful of the movant's burdens
of proof required in a motion for summary judgment, which is
found in La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(D)(1) and provides:
The burden of proof rests with the mover. Nevertheless, if
the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the
issue that is before the court on the motion for summary
judgment, the mover's burden on the motion does not
require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse
party's claim, action, or defense, but rather to point
out to the court the absence of factual support for one or
more elements essential to the adverse party's claim,
action, or defense. The burden is on the adverse party to
produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence
of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
"[t]he only documents that may be filed in support of or
in opposition to the motion are pleadings, memoranda,
affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
certified medical records, written stipulations, and
admissions." La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(A)(4).
the standard of review regarding a "peremptory exception
of no cause of action is de novo because it raises a question
of law." Hebert v. Shelton, 08-1275, p. 3
(La.App. 3 Cir. 6/3/09), 11 So.3d 1197, 1201.
The function of the peremptory exception of no cause of
action is to question whether the law extends a remedy to
anyone under the factual allegations of the petition. The
peremptory exception of no cause of action is designed to
test the legal sufficiency of the petition by determining
whether [the] plaintiff is afforded a remedy in law based on
the facts alleged in the pleading. No evidence may be
introduced to support or controvert the objection that the
petition fails to state a cause of action. The exception is
triable on the face of the ...