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United States District Court for the District of New Mexico
March 19, 2015, Filed
No. CIV 12-0040 JB/LFG
[*319] MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiffs' Motion and Supporting Brief to Determine That This Matter Proceed as a Class Action, filed January 6, 2014 (Doc. 194)("Motion"). The Court held a two-part class certification hearing with its first portion on March 10, 11, and 12, 2014, and its second portion on April 3 and 4, 2014. See Transcript of Hearing, taken March 10, 2014, filed June 26, 2014 (Doc. 254); Transcript of Hearing, taken March 11, 2014, filed [**2] June 26, 2014 (Doc. 255); Transcript of Hearing, taken March 12, 2014, filed June 26, 2014 (Doc. 256); Transcript of Hearing, taken April 3, 2014, filed June 26, 2014 (Doc. 257); Transcript of Hearing, taken April 4, 2014, filed June 26, 2014 (Doc. 258)(collectively, "Tr.").1 The primary issues are: (i) whether and to what extent textual variations among the leases within the proposed class defeat the commonality requirements of rule 23(a), or the predominance or superiority requirements of rule 23(b), of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; (ii) whether and to what extent ambiguity -- and the need for parol evidence to resolve it -- in the class leases defeats rule 23(a)'s commonality, or rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance or superiority requirements; (iii) whether and to what extent the class members' potentially varying levels of actual knowledge and reasonable diligence in uncovering their claims -- which, under the discovery rule, are determinative when the statutes of limitations accrue on these claims -- defeats rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance or superiority requirements; (iv) whether and to what extent any difficulty in properly assigning damages among the class members defeats the predominance or superiority requirements; (v) whether rule 23(a)'s requirements -- numerosity, commonality, [**3] typicality, and adequacy -- and rule 23(b)(3)'s requirements -- predominance and superiority -- are otherwise met with regard to the proposed class; and (vi) whom to appoint as class counsel rule 23(g). Textual variations among the leases both destroy commonality and predominance, because the central issue in this case -- what royalty-payment methodology the Defendants owe the Plaintiffs -- varies from lease to lease. Lease ambiguity does not destroy commonality, but it weighs against finding predominance. The class members' potentially varying levels of knowledge likewise presents individual issues that cut against predominance. Problems in assigning damages can be overcome, and damages can be determined on a classwide basis. Therefore, the Court concludes that this proposed [*320] class action satisfies the rule 23(a) prerequisites of numerosity, typicality, and adequacy, and the rule 23(b)(3) requirement of superiority, but that it fails the rule 23(a)(2) commonality prerequisite and the rule 23(b)(3) predominance requirement. The Court, thus, denies the Motion.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
306 F.R.D. 312 *; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37256 **
THE ANDERSON LIVING TRUST f/k/a THE JAMES H. ANDERSON LIVING TRUST; THE PRITCHETT LIVING TRUST; CYNTHIA W. SADLER; ROBERT WESTFALL; LEE WILEY MONCRIEF 1988 TRUST; KELLY COX TESTAMENTARY TRUST 7/1238401; MINNIE PATTON SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION TRUST; and SWMF PROPERTIES, INC., Plaintiffs, vs. WPX ENERGY PRODUCTION, LLC f/k/a WPX ENERGY SAN JUAN, LLC; WILLIAMS PRODUCTION COMPANY, LLC; and WPX ENERGY ROCKY MOUNTAIN, LLC, f/k/a WILLIAMS PRODUCTION RMT COMPANY, LLC, Defendants.
Subsequent History: Reconsideration denied by Anderson Living Trust v. WPX Energy Prod., LLC, 312 F.R.D. 620, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175079 (D.N.M., Dec. 31, 2015)
Appeal dismissed by Anderson Living Trust v. WPX Energy Prod., LLC, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 27074 (10th Cir. N.M., Sept. 21, 2018)
Prior History: Anderson Living Trust v. ConocoPhillips Co., LLC, 952 F. Supp. 2d 979, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96877 (D.N.M., June 28, 2013)
leases, royalty, predominance, Plaintiffs', Defendants', gathering, class action, class member, lessee, natural gas, district court, damages, class certification, processing, calculated, oil-and-gas, costs, commonality, condensate, Energy, putative class member, certification, methodology, cases, affiliate, wellhead, individualized, questions, proceeds, parties
Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Certification of Classes, Prerequisites for Class Action, General Overview, Numerosity, Commonality, Typicality, Adequacy of Representation, Predominance, Superiority, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Trial by Jury in Civil Actions, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Affirmative Defenses, Statute of Limitations, Tolling of Statute of Limitations, Discovery Rule, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Energy & Utilities Law, Oil, Gas & Mineral Interests, Implied Covenants, Administration & Marketing, Royalty Interests, Royalties, Collection & Payment