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Global Marketing Solutions, L.L.C. v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 27, 2019

GLOBAL MARKETING SOLUTIONS, L.L.C.
v.
CHEVRON U.S.A. INC., EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION, KEY PRODUCTION COMPANY, INC., SEAL ENERGY COMPANY, AND WARREN OPERATING COMPANY

          Appealed from the 18th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of West Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Case No. 1044039 The Honorable Alvin Batiste, Judge Presiding

          Donald T. Carmouche Victor L. Marcello John H. Carmouche William R. Coenen, III Brian T. Carmouche Todd J. Wimberley Ross J. Donnes D. Adele Owen Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Richard J. Ward, Jr. Maringouin, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Global Marketing Solutions, L.L.C.

          Michael R. Phillips Claire E. Juneau Jeffrey J. Gelpi New Orleans, Louisiana and L. Victor Gregoire Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Chevron U.S.A., Inc.

          Joe B. Norman Kelly Brechtel Becker James E. Lapeze Kathryn Zainey Gonski New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Exxon Mobile Corporation

          David M. Culpepper New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Key Production Company, Inc.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, PENZATO, AND LANIER, JJ.

          LANIER, J.

         In this appeal, plaintiff, Global Marketing Solutions, L.L.C. ("Global"), challenges the district court's judgment sustaining the peremptory exceptions raising the objection of res judicata filed by defendants, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. ("Chevron"), Exxon Mobil Corporation ("Exxon"), and Key Production Company, Inc. ("Key"), resulting in the dismissal of Global's claims against defendants, with prejudice. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The underlying history of this case is familiar to this court as it has previously been before us on numerous occasions, dating back to 2010. Pertinent to the instant appeal is our prior holding in Global Marketing Solutions, LLC v. Blue Mill Farms, Inc., 2013-2132 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/19/14), 153 So.3d 1209, writ denied, 2014-2572 (La. 4/23/15), 173 So.3d 1164 ("Global I").

         According to the record, Global owns 144 acres of land located in the Bayou Choctaw Oil & Gas Field ("Global Tract"). Global alleges that after purchasing the Global Tract, it discovered that both the surface and subsurface soils and waters of the land had been contaminated by various forms of toxic waste from drilling operations that had been conducted since at least the 1930s. At no time did Global possess mineral rights to the land. The mineral rights had been severed years prior by various mineral leases beginning in the 1930s. Through investigation and discovery, Global learned that the defendants were mineral lessees at various points in the land's history and had conducted drilling operations.

         In March 2006, Global filed suit naming as defendants Chevron, Exxon, and Key, among others, asserting contract and tort claims. According to Global, the various defendants were responsible for the contamination of the property at issue. Among other things, Global alleged the following: (1) the land in the Global Tract was contaminated by the defendants as a result of the operation of oil and gas wells at varying times, and under various mineral leases, from 1942 through 2005; (2) the named defendants were negligent and strictly liable; (3) the defendants were in breach of their oil, gas, and mineral leases; (4) the defendants were contractually obligated under the leases to restore the property to its original condition and failed to do so, causing damage to the property; (5) the defendants breached the standards imposed by the Louisiana Civil Code and the Louisiana Mineral Code in failing to act as prudent administrators and failing to restore Global's property to its original condition; and (6) the defendants who were owners of a mineral interest or servitude were obligated to restore the property to its original condition pursuant to La. R.S. 31:22.

         In a subsequent supplemental and amending petition, Global added a paragraph alleging that one or more mineral servitude owners for the Global Tract had assigned to Global 99 percent of their claims for damages caused by the oilfield operations on the Global Tract. Global sought to pursue claims against Chevron, Exxon, Key, and other defendants based upon assignments by three mineral servitude owners, Priscilla Davis Gravely, Mary G. Rutrough, and Georgi Davis Duwe.

         In response to Global's suit, Chevron, Exxon, Key, and other defendants filed various exceptions including no right of action and no cause of action objections, as well as motions for summary judgment. Following a hearing on the various exceptions, the district court denied the no right of action objection and motions for summary judgment. In reaching its ruling, the district court relied on the opinion of this court found in Marin v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, 2008-1724 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/30/09) 2009WL7004332 (unpublished opinion), which, at the time, was under review by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

         Following the district court's ruling, the defendants applied for supervisory writs of review with this court, which were denied with the stipulation that defendants be allowed to re-urge their exceptions should the Marin case be reversed by the supreme court. The defendants subsequently applied for supervisory writs to the supreme court. In the interim, Marin was reversed, Marin v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, 2009-2368 (La. 10/19/10), 48 So.3d 234, as was a similar case out of the fourth circuit court of appeal, Eagle Pipe and Supply, Inc. v. Amerada Hess Corporation, 2010-2267 (La. 10/25/11), 79 So.3d 246. Thus, the supreme court granted the defendants' writs and remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of its previous ruling in light of the Eagle Pipe decision.

         The defendants re-urged their motions, and on May 29, 2013, the matter came before the district court on remand. After hearing argument from the parties, the district court ruled from the bench as follows:

[I]t is the same thing that you have here with Global being the subsequent purchaser, and there's no dispute as to any of the facts, I think, in this case, Global being the subsequent purchaser, that an absent - an assignment or a stipulation pour autrui will have no right to sue for damages that were caused to the property. And we're talking about damages in terms of tort or contract, any damages that occur to the property prior to their purchasing the property. It would have been incumbent upon those owners at that time to seek any damages that were owed to the property.
The probably more troubling issues with regard to the assignment of the mineral leases, which again are not in dispute, that it occurred at the time that leases were no longer in existence or had been terminated or had expired. And so just limiting the Court's decision based on that narrow issue of the law, the Court will also find that due to the fact that the assignment took place after the expiration of leases that the assignments, therefore, are not effective.
I will adopt and incorporate, by reference, the reasons set forth in the briefs of the defendant, also along with the oral reasons given today in court as the basis for the Court's ruling in this matter granting the motions for summary judgment.

         In a judgment signed on June 24, 2013, the district court granted the motions for summary judgment[1] in favor of the defendants, dismissing Global's claims, with prejudice. The district court noted that the new judgment was made in light of the Eagle Pipe decision. Global appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred "in failing to find that ...


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