Tuesday, August 13, 2013

District Court recommends landowners be denied class certification

On August 5, 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania published a report and recommendation to deny a landowner group’s class certification. Pollock v. ECA, WL 4015777 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 5, 2013). The landowner plaintiffs were party to oil and gas leases with ECA. According to the Plaintiffs’ claims ECA deducted amounts from the royalty payments that were not permitted under the leases. The plaintiffs’ argued that deducting charges for interstate pipeline services and deduction of charges for marketing costs prior to March 26, 2012, and deductions for fuel used to compress the extracted gas.

The plaintiff landowners came to the court to seek class certification to begin a class action suit against ECA. The court recommended class certification be denied because the landowner Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate: a) that the class was numerous; b) that the claims against ECA were common to the class; and c) that the Plaintiffs are typical of the class. 

The court explained that the landowners merely pointing to the number of lessors with ECA in Department of Environmental Protection data was not sufficient to demonstrate numerosity because they offered no evidence that the leases involved contained language consistent with alleged improper deductions. Further, the court explained that the claims were not common to the class because differing royalty clauses would require “an individualized inquiry into the duties and obligations” of the leases. Finally, the court explained the Plaintiffs did not demonstrate they were typical of the class because their litigation did not advance the class interests as a whole. Therefore, the court recommended the class certification be denied.

Written by: Garrett Lent, Research Assistant
Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
August 2013

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