Trial Date Set for Tarrant County Royalty Suit Against Chesapeake Energy
FORT WORTH – The first of hundreds of North Texas royalty lawsuits filed against Chesapeake Energy by the McDonald Law Firm has been set for trial early next year in Tarrant County.
State District Judge Dana Womack set the trial for February 22, 2016, setting the stage for what is expected to be a hard-fought battle between Chesapeake Energy and thousands of gas royalty owners who claim the energy giant deliberately cheated them out of royalties.
The 30-page lawsuit – which was filed on behalf of a Tarrant County property owner – alleges breach of contract, among other things. It also names several other co-defendants, including Total E&P USA, based out of Houston.
The Fort Worth-based McDonald Law Firm represents nearly 11,000 Texas gas royalty owners. In an effort to streamline the mass litigation against Chesapeake, a state judicial panel appointed Judge Womack, of Tarrant County, to oversee pretrial decisions and set trial dates for Barnett Shale cases filed by the McDonald Law Firm. Once the legal issues are decided, Womack will send the cases to other courts for trials or final disposition.
The first Tarrant County case set for trial next year will be presided over by State District Judge Melody Wilkinson.
The Tarrant County trial date is just the latest movement in the McDonald Law Firm’s massive litigation against Chesapeake. The firm currently represents nearly 20,000 gas royalty owners across the country and has filed 280 lawsuits against Chesapeake in Tarrant, Johnson, Dallas and Harris counties, as well as in various Oklahoma courts.
Most of the litigation stems from Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Louisiana – states with some of the country’s biggest shale plays. The McDonald Law Firm contends that Chesapeake Energy and its subsidiaries have underpaid gas royalty owners in each shale several hundred million dollars.
In a recent hearing in Tarrant County, the firm’s founder, Dan McDonald, asked Judge Womack to start setting cases for trial as soon as possible. Chesapeake, meanwhile, requested a delay of nearly a year.