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While forfeitures are not ordinarily favored by courts of chancery, there is an exception when it is against equity to permit a lessee to hold possession of property indefinitely without performing any of the duties required of him by his contract.
Defendant Sam Kubetz and wife appeal from a judgment declaring a forfeiture of the husband's interest as sublessee in a certain oil property. The original lease was made by Frank F. Pellissier and Sons, Inc., to the personal representatives of Anita M. Baldwin, deceased, who have been succeeded in ownership thereof by Baldwin M. Baldwin and others as testamentary trustees of said decedent. Those trustees are plaintiffs herein. In 1944 the original lessees made a sublease to Capital Company which assigned to Harry W. Kline and his wife, who expressly agreed to perform all the terms of the sublease. The Klines, on June 14, 1951, made a sublease to Sam Kubetz and one Joel Brandon but excepted 166 feet surrounding two producing wells and reserved an overriding royalty. Kubetz and Brandon expressly took subject to and agreed to perform all the terms and conditions of the Baldwin sublease. In July, 1952, Kubetz succeeded to the rights of Brandon.
Was the forfeiture of Kubetz’ interest as sublessee in a certain oil property proper?
The court stated that Kubetz’ interest under the sublease was terminated with the possible exception of the existing producing well and acres surrounding it, upon the finding of Kubetz’ wilful and wilfully persistent default in performance of the obligation to maintain and operate the well in conformity with customary oil field practices and modern methods.