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Hankinson LLP Scores Appellate Victory in Subsurface Trespass Case

In a precedent-setting case, Deborah Hankinson, Stephanie Nelson, and Brett Kutnick successfully defended Anadarko E&P Onshore against Lightning Oil Company’s claims for subsurface trespass and tortious interference with contract.

The Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Anadarko did not commit an actionable trespass by drilling, with permission of the surface estate owner, through Lightning’s mineral estate.

“The prevalence of off-site drilling in Texas makes this one of the Court’s most significant oil-and-gas opinions in recent years,” notes Ms. Hankinson.

In the May 19, 2017, story “Texas Justices Side With Anadarko in Drilling Trespass Row” detailing the ruling, the national legal news service Law360 wrote that “Lightning owns the rights to the oil and gas beneath the Briscoe Ranch in the Eagle Ford Shale play, and had argued it must grant consent before Anadarko can drill through that property to reach Anadarko’s mineral lease.”

The article noted that “Anadarko had argued it didn’t have to strike a deal with Lightning because it secured permission from the ranch” to drill its horizontal well that would bottom on Anadarko’s own mineral estate. The court agreed with Anadarko, holding “the individual interests in the oil and gas lost through being brought to the surface as part of drilling a well are outweighed by the interests of the industry as a whole and society in maximizing oil and gas recovery.”

The court also held that Lightning had failed to demonstrate that Anadarko’s off-site drilling would interfere with Lightning’s development of its own mineral estate.

Lightning Oil Co. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, No. 15-0910, 520 S.W.3d 39 (Tex. 2017)