CHARLESTON – Natural gas companies Dominion Resources Services and Equitable Production face federal lawsuits similar to a Roane County suit that resulted in a $405 million verdict against Columbia Natural Resources.
In all three cases, holders of natural gas leases claimed in Roane County circuit court that the companies failed to pay all the royalties the leases should have provided.
They claimed the companies misled them and sent them incorrect and deceptive documents.
Attorneys Marvin Masters and Scott Segal of Charleston lead a team of plaintiff attorneys in all three cases.
Roane County jurors in February ordered Columbia Natural Resources to pay lease holders $135 million in compensation and $270 million in punitive damages.
Roane County jurors won't hear the other two suits. Dominion Resources Services and Equitable Production removed the suits to U. S. district court in Charleston.
Attorney Richard Gottlieb of Charleston removed the Equitable Production suit to federal court last Aug. 7.
He wrote that the national Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 required removal because the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million.
He wrote that plaintiff attorneys fraudulently joined Pennsylvania resident Mary Chapuisat as a plaintiff to prevent removal.
He wrote that Chapuisat lacked standing because she sued as a beneficiary of a trust rather than as a trustee.
Attorney Henry Lawrence IV of Clarksburg removed the Dominion Resources Services suit Aug. 29.
He wrote that no plaintiff had a lease in Roane County and no plaintiff claimed to suffer any harm in Roane County.
He moved to dismiss.
The federal court assigned both cases to U. S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin. The court assigned preliminary motions to Magistrate Judge Mary Stanley.
In January, Stanley set trial for Dominion Resources Services in October 2008. She set a mediation session this July.
In February, she ordered Equitable Production to continue producing leases for plaintiffs.
She gave plaintiffs a week to amend the complaint and add new defendants, but they did not amend the complaint.
She set a management conference Feb. 27, but four days ahead of time the parties agreed to postpone it until March 28.