In a long-awaited opinion, the 7th District Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas July 12, 2014, decision in Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp., Monroe C.P. No. 2011-345.
The Monroe County Common Pleas Court was the first of several to grant summary judgment to holders of mineral rights finding that the oil and gas leases at issue in the litigation were void ab initio as a matter of public policy. Since the Hupp trial court decision was rendered, trial courts in at least four other cases (Bohlen v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, Washington C.P. No. 13-OT-167 (March 27, 2014); Bentley v. Beck Energy Corporation, Belmont C.P. No. 11-CV-513 (September 16, 2013); Oxford Oil Company v. West, Belmont C.P. No. 11-CV-435 (September 16, 2013); and Belmont Hills Country Club v. Beck Energy Corporation, Belmont C.P. No. 11-CV-290 (July 8, 2013)) have granted summary judgment in favor of lessors adopting the Hupp trial court’s reasoning. Additionally, the Common Pleas Court’s judgment has led lessors to routinely include “the public policy” argument in newly filed lease-busting litigation.
The 7th District Court’s opinion generally comports with the majority view expressed in other states where oil and gas jurisprudence is more completely developed than in Ohio. But, if the Hupp trial court decision continues to be followed by other Ohio courts, it will render untold amounts of leases employing similar habendum and delay rental provisions void from the date of their execution. It is to be hoped that the analysis in the 7th District’s well-reasoned opinion will be persuasive to other Ohio trial and appellate courts and, ultimately, the Ohio Supreme Court should the Court render an opinion on the matter.