According to one local oil and gas attorney, suits like this are nothing new. "We have surface owners locking gates, meeting them with guns, and the reason that happens is they're not part of the oil and gas lease. They're not getting any money," says Midland attorney Angela Staples.
Staples says, in many cases, it's because the surface owner simply doesn't understand their land is subject to an oil and gas lease until stakes begin to go up on their land. She adds, "the surface owners are very upset because they don't understand that in Texas the mineral estate is the dominant estate. They are the ones that have the right to come on and do what they need to do to extract those minerals."
Whether the surface owner understands the law or not, Staples says this type of lawsuit is nothing new. "There are a lot of lawsuits against operators by surface owners alleging unreasonable use or damages or contamination, and that's what this suit is basically about."
Although the defendants will most likely argue to get the claims taken out of the lawsuit, she says in most cases, the plaintiff will get their day in court. "In Texas, almost anyone can sue anyone over anything, and you'll likely end up in court. So, the likelihood that they're actually going to get to court and in front of the jury is actually pretty good."
Whether the surface owner will succeed isn't as easy. Staples says, "Texas courts are extremely mineral owner driven and oil driven. That's how we make our money. A lot of land in Texas is owned by the state of Texas and University Lands. So, there's a lot of law in favor of the surface owner."
We have contacted the plaintiff and some defendants in this particular case. They are deciding how much information they want to share at this time. We will continue to follow the case, and bring you more information as it comes in.