CHARLESTON - A lawsuit against Hoosier Buckeye Oil Ventures LLC has been dismissed from federal court.

Thomas Outman was also named as a defendant in the suit.

On Sept. 18, a memorandum opinion and order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston.

The defendants moved to dismiss each count in the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the order states.

"I find that the complaint does not allege that the defendants' actions caused the plaintiffs to suffer any damages. The Complaint does not allege that Cunningham Energy lost a single investor as a result of the Colt questionnaire," the order states. "The plaintiffs have alleged damages outside of the pleadings..."

The defendants' motion to dismiss was granted and the court ordered that judgment be entered in the favor of the defendants.

On March 11, 2011, Outman, through Hoosier, began investing in drilling programs undertaken by Cunningham Energy and Outman invested $24,625 in Blue Creek 3 Program. On March 28, 2011, Outman invested $19,700 in Blue Creek 3 and on May 23, 2011, Outman invested $4,900 in Big Sandy 5 Program for a total investment of $73,848, according to a complaint initially filed June 21 in Kanawha Circuit Court and removed to federal court on July 22.

Cunningham Energy and Ryan E. M. Cunningham claimed Outman was fully advised of the risks associated with drilling for oil and gas and notwithstanding Cunningham's best efforts, the two drilling programs in which Outman invested did not meet Outman's expectations. However, all the wells outlined in Blue Creek 3 and Big Sandy 5 were drilled to advertised specifications.

In April, Outman began asking for the investment back and in May, Outman became increasingly aggressive and agitated about the return of his money and began threatening the plaintiffs with an explicit program of libel and slander, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claimed in the second week of June, Outman hired a private investigator firm in Tennessee named Colt Ledger, which is "famous for extorting money from honest oil and gas operators."

By threatening to disparage the reputation of Cunningham and be procuring the services of a professional extortionist, the defendants are guilty of civil offense of common law extortion because in West Virginia, violation of a criminal statute automatically gives rise to a private cause of action on the part of the victim, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs were seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They were being represented by Richard Neely of Neely & Callaghan.

The defendants were represented by James K. Tinney and John K. Cecil of the Tinney Law Firm PLLC.

The case was assigned to District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston case number: 2:13-cv-20748

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