Neighbor disputes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes disputes arise between residential and commercial property owners—like when residents have concerns about nearby development activity. While litigation between neighbors is sometimes necessary, informal resolution is preferable, even for a complex real estate dispute. Informal resolution was possible for residents of the Friendswood Estates and Forest of Friendswood neighborhoods. The two communities had become concerned about future flooding when Westover LP announced its planned mixed-used development in the Clear Creek floodway in early 2018. One-third of the homes in Friendswood flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
Oil and gas leases usually include royalty provisions requiring the lessor pay a percentage of revenue (a royalty) to the owner of the mineral rights. Production costs are almost always deducted before a royalty is calculated, but when the royalty vests can affect which production costs are deducted before calculation. The Texas Supreme Court recently held that post-production costs were also properly deducted from overriding royalty payments where the interest vested “into the pipeline” in Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, L.P. v. Texas Crude Energy, LLC (No. 17-0266).
In a previous blog, we discussed trade secrets and how such confidential information can often be ambiguous with regard to how it is classified. This specifically came up in a recent case in Bexar County where a jury found both company models and data could be classified as trade secrets. A jury decided Title Source had stolen proprietary data from startup HouseCanary as it allegedly readied to build its own software suite. This resulted in a $706 million verdict in favor of HouseCanary, which the trial increased to nearly $740 million after denying Title Source’s request to vacate the jury’s decision. Now, Texas justices, have been asked to consider the proper standards and procedures for sealing trade-secret information.
Many Texas families and companies have been built on the back of oil and gas production. In Texas, mineral rights—the entitlement to explore and produce subsurface minerals, like oil and gas—can be separated from surface rights and sold, leased, gifted, split or otherwise conveyed relatively freely. The complexities of mineral rights leases were the focus of a recent $41 million judgment against EP Energy E&P Company, LP, a Texas oil and gas company. The case is Storey Minerals, Ltd., et al. v. EP Energy E&P Company, L.P., Case No. 001-36253, in the 81st Judicial District of La Salle, County, Texas.
Trade secret protection is often a central concern in litigation. This is particularly true for non-parties asked to disclose information they consider confidential, critical business information. The scope of discovery is broad, with the rules of discovery generally allowing the discovery of any information reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of relevant, admissible evidence. However, the rules of discovery also allow parties and non-parties to seek protection of privileged and other confidential information, such as trade secrets. This was the case for a non-party medical provider, AD Hospital East, LLC, in Austen Lackey v. Austin Dement and CRST Expedited, Inc., Case Number SA-17-cv-00514, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division.
Trade secrets present a unique problem for businesses. A company’s intellectual property is absolutely crucial to the operation and success of a business, but companies must decide whether to seek sunsetting protection by registering this property with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or U.S. Copyright Office. Alternatively, companies can classify the information as trade secrets, ideally protecting them in perpetuity. While trade secrets aren’t formally registered with a government entity, they can still be protected from misappropriation, but proving the item in question was in fact a trade secret and that misappropriation has occurred is not always simple. This was the case in Six Dimensions Inc. v. Perficient Inc. et al., Case Number 4:17-cv-02680, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.
Few would have predicted that a company’s inability to complete a Texas to California rail line in the late 1880’s would result in the creation of one of the oil and gas industry’s most valuable assets. The Texas Pacific Land Trust (TPL) was established in 1888 following the Texas and Pacific Railway Company’s failure and subsequent bankruptcy. The railway’s over 3.5 million acres of land were deeded into the TPL as part of the bankruptcy. The TPL sold much of this land over time, but its remaining 900,000 acres are mostly situated in the Permian Basin — one of the most oil rich basins in the country.
American Airlines employs over 31,000 mechanics to keep its planes in the air, but its four-year-long contract dispute with its mechanics’ unions may soon change that. The problem started in 2013 when American Airlines merged with U.S. Airways. At the time, each airline had a contract with a different union. Mechanics at American Airlines had a contract with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and U.S. Airways mechanics had a contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). American Airlines has unsuccessfully tried to renegotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the two unions since 2015.