Our approach differs in several ways from the approaches being taken by other law firms currently pursuing class arbitration claims against Chesapeake Appalachia, or class actions against Chesapeake Energy and Access Midstream. It is also different from the approach being taken by other law firms seeking to represent Pennsylvania landowners in group actions. Without publicly disclosing the details, our general approach includes:
- GROUP ACTIONS - NOT Class Actions. Our litigation team will not be filing class actions lawsuits, or class arbitration claims. Instead, we will be filing and pursuing only direct litigation claims of individual royalty owners, on a group basis, in federal court in Scranton. Likewise, for those royalty owners whose leases contain arbitration clauses, we will be seeking to file and pursue only the direct arbitration claims of those individual landowners, by seeking to require the American Arbitration Association to permit us to either (a) file and pursue similar claims held by our clients on a collective or group basis, or (b) consolidate the claims with similar direct arbitration claims of other landowners we represent.
- File ALL VIABLE CLAIMS AGAINST ALL RESPONSIBLE PARTIES - In addition to pursuing claims for breach of contract against Chesapeake Appalachia, we also plan to pursue claims against any other gas companies that we determine have been underpaying royalties, whether as a result of impermissible or otherwise excessive and unreasonable deductions otherwise (including, if and to the extent we determine to be applicable in your case, and supported by your royalty statements, Anadarko, Chief, Mitsui and/or Statoil). We also will be pursuing separate litigation claims on behalf of landowners against Chesapeake Energy, other Chesapeake affiliates, and Access Midstream, the entity that now owns the gas gathering system through which the gas in which you have a royalty interest is transported, for violations of federal antitrust and RICO statutes, and for common law torts. In addition to claims for breach of express contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, we intend to assert claims based on the recent deal Between Chesapeake and Access Midstream transferring ownership of the gathering systems and related exclusive gathering agreements as a an unlawful scheme in restraint of trade, and as an abuse of monopoly power.
- FILE CLAIMS NOW, OBTAIN DISCOVERY, THEN NEGOTIATE - Many if not all of the other law firms representing (or seeking to represent) Pennsylvania landowners have focused their attention and efforts on litigating the claims of royalty owners in other states (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma), either on the theory that they will be able to use the claims of royalty owners in other states, and discovery concerning those claims, as leverage to settle the claims of Pennsylvania royalty owners, or with the intent to file the claims of Pennsylvania royalty owners in Oklahoma or Texas. In our experience, however, corporate defendants do not usually agree to settle claims against them for their true value unless and until they are on the proverbial "courthouse steps", facing a jury trial or arbitration in which the other party is ready, willing and able to go to trial or arbitration to prove his claims. For that to happen, you will first have to file your claims, start the litigation process, obtain discovery specific to Pennsylvania and to your claims, and retain the appropriate expert witnesses who will be needed to evaluate and prove your claims and damages, all of which takes time. Likewise, it is difficult for you or any attorney to intelligently assess the full potential value and strength of your claims without the benefit of such discovery and expert analysis. As a result, the longer you wait, the longer the defendants' day of reckoning - and any recovery by you - are delayed.
- Filing your claims now also helps to avoid having any of your claims barred or limited by the applicable statute of limitations. For all of these reasons, we believe it is important to file your claims NOW, to get the trial-clock running and be able to take Pennsylvania focused discovery as soon as possible.
- First, filing and pursuing your direct claims on a collective or group basis, instead of filing class arbitration claims or class action lawsuits (or relying on class arbitration or class action claims filed by other royalty interest owners) gives you the opportunity for more direct input and participation in case strategy, as well as ultimate control over the negotiation, structure, approval and terms of any settlement. This will be your action. You will not be obligated to act on behalf of any other royalty interest owners, or be forced to rely on any other royalty interest owner making decisions on your behalf.
- Second, proceeding on a group basis allows cost-sharing, which can make it economically feasible for you to pursue claims which otherwise might not be cost-efficient or practical to pursue on an individual basis, in light of the substantial costs involved for expert witnesses and discovery.
- Third, we believe that our approach will allow us to arbitrate and litigate the merits of your claims much more quickly than the approaches which have been taken to date by other royalty interest owners, by avoiding many of the issues and protracted delays that have affected, and in our view are likely to continue to affect, many of the pending claims.