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Law School Case Brief

Kelley v. Ohio Oil Co. - 57 Ohio St. 317, 49 N.E. 399 (1897)


To drill an oil well near the line of one's land can not interfere with the legal rights of the owner of the adjoining lands, so long as all operations are confined to the lands upon which the well is drilled. Whatever gets into the well, belongs to the owner of the well, no matter where it came from. In such cases the well and its contents belong to the owner or lessee of the land, and no one can tell to a certainty from whence the oil, gas or water which enters the well came, and no legal right as to the same can be established or enforced by an adjoining land owner. 


An individual had a contract with a property owner to operate the land for oil. An adjoining property owner, a corporation, also sought to drill oil on its land. The individual filed an action for a temporary restraining order against the corporation alleging that the corporation's intention to drill oil on land so close to the other property owner's land was unlawful. The trial court denied the relief requested.


Whether the corporation had the legal right to drill the wells.




On appeal, the court affirmed. The court held that the issue was not whether the corporation had bad motive, fraud, or malice, but rather whether the corporation had the legal right to drill the wells. The court held that the corporation did have such a right. The court held that the right to drill and produce oil on one's own land was absolute and could not be supervised or controlled by a court or an adjoining landowner. The court held that so long as the operations were legal, their reasonableness could not be drawn in question. The court concluded that the corporation's drilling was legal.

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