United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
JANET C. PACKARD and LEROY PACKARD, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
ANTERO RESOURCES CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION EXPLAINING ORDER GRANTING IN PART
AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS [DKT.
M. KEELEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a joint scheduling conference in these consolidated cases on
April 4, 2018, the Court GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part the
defendant's motions to dismiss. This Memorandum Opinion
explains the Court's reasoning in support of that
facts are taken from the complaints and, as they must be, are
construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs.
See De'Lonta v. Johnson, 708 F.3d 520, 524 (4th
Cir. 2013). On December 5, 2017, the plaintiffs, Janet C.
Packard and Leroy Packard, Garnet C. Cottrill, and Marlyn C.
Sigmon, filed three identical complaints in the Circuit Court
of Harrison County, West Virginia, against the defendant,
Antero Resources Corporation (“Antero”) (Dkt. No.
1-1). The complaints allege that the plaintiffs
own mineral interests in real property subject to three oil
and gas leases. These include two tracts containing 104.75
and 6.5 acres in Union District, Harrison County, West
Virginia; one tract containing 50.82 acres in Union District,
Harrison County, West Virginia; and one tract containing
54.18 acres in Union District, Harrison County, West
Virginia. Id. at 1-2. Allegedly, none of the leases
“contain pooling or unitization authority” and
“require the Lessor's consent to assign.”
the fact that the leases do not expressly grant the right to
pool or unitize, Antero has drilled horizontal wells through
each of the tracts at issue, produced minerals from the oil
and gas estate, and pooled the plaintiffs' gas with the
gas of others. Id. at 3. The complaints make three
claims for relief based on the allegedly unlawful pooling of
the plaintiffs' property, including 1) trespass, 2)
breach of contract, and 3) breach of the implied duty to
protect against drainage. Id. at 4-5.
removed the cases to this Court on January 11, 2018, based on
the Court's diversity jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 1). On
January 18, 2018, Antero moved to dismiss each of the
complaints (Dkt. No. 6). At a joint scheduling conference on
April 4, 2018, the Court consolidated the cases and granted
in part and denied in part Antero's motions (Dkt. No.
their briefs on the motions to dismiss, the parties have
attached matters of public record that supplement the factual
allegations in the complaints. Antero provided three leases
and three lease modifications (Dkt. No. 6-1), while the
plaintiffs included an order entered by the Circuit Court of
Harrison County, West Virginia, in a recent case (Dkt. No.
plaintiffs are three of seven children born to James Corder
and Pearl Corder. In 1979 and 1981, James Corder and Pearl
Corder executed three oil and gas leases covering their
interest in the tracts at issue in this case (collectively,
“the leases”) (Dkt. No. 8-1 at 2). Those leases
do not contain a provision that expressly provides the right
to pool or unitize the property. Two of the leases do provide
for development “for the purpose of mining and
operating for oil and gas, and of building tanks, stations,
power plants, water stations and structures thereon to take
care of the said products, and of laying pipe lines on, over,
and across the leased premises and other lands of Lessor, for
the purpose of conveying oil, gas, steam or water therein
from and to wells and pipe lines on the premises and on
adjoining and adjacent farms” (Dkt. No. 6-1 at 2, 5).
The third lease includes a grant of “all other rights
and privileges necessary, incident to, and convenient for the
economical operation of said tracts or parcels of land for
the production and transportation of said minerals.”
Id. at 9.
October 31, 1987, James Corder died intestate, passing his
fee simple interest in the tracts to his seven children.
Id. at 2. On September 5, 1989, the children
executed deeds conveying the tracts to brothers Gerald
Corder, Randall Corder, and Roger Corder. Significantly, none
of these deeds reserved an interest in oil and gas.
Nonetheless, in 1992, the seven siblings completed a
separation of the oil and gas interests, and each has since
paid one-seventh of the taxes on the oil and gas interest for
each property. Id.
assignments effective September 2008 and April 2010, Antero
acquired the rights under the leases executed by James and
Pearl Corder in 1979 and 1981. Id. The deeds
executed in 1989 led Antero to believe that the three
brothers owned an undivided interest in the property, and it
asked them to execute modifications to allow pooling.
Id. In 2012, acknowledging that the original leases
did not contain pooling or unitization authority, Gerald
Corder, Randall Corder, and Roger Corder executed such
modifications to include a pooling provision (Dkt. No. 6-1 at
brothers' interactions with Antero alerted the remaining
siblings to the fact that they actually had not reserved oil
and gas interests in the subject tracts (Dkt. No. 8-1 at 3).
When they attempted to execute corrective deeds to address
this omission, Roger Corder refused, arguing that he had
never agreed to such a reservation. The other siblings
therefore sought to reform the deeds to reflect their
purported agreement by filing suit in the Circuit Court of
Harrison County, West Virginia. Id. By order entered
on November 3, 2015, Circuit Court Judge James A. Matish
found that a mutual mistake had occurred in 1989, and
directed the siblings to execute deeds reflecting the agreed
reservation of undivided interests in the oil and gas.
Id. at 7-8. No documents executed following Judge
Matish's order were attached to the parties' briefs.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Civ. P. 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move for dismissal on
the grounds that a complaint does not “state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” When reviewing a
complaint, the Court “must accept as true all of the
factual allegations contained in the complaint.”
Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th
Cir. 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007)). “While a complaint . . . does not need
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to
provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment]
to relief' requires more than labels and ...