A dispute between the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and various trusts arose over the surface and the subsurface rights for numerous tracts of land in Sullivan and Bradford Counties in northeastern Pennsylvania.
In December 2019, the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling and found that the Game Commission, and not certain heirs, held title to the oil and gas rights. The Court rejected the heirs’ claim that they had reserved the disputed oil and gas rights on the basis that a 1908 tax sale merged the surface and the subsurface estates. Pa. Game Comm’n v. Thomas E. Proctor Heirs Trust, Case No. 1:12-cv-1567, 2019 WL 6893205 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2019).
Despite the 2019 ruling to the contrary, the Middle District of Pennsylvania then reversed course and held instead that fact issues – such as the nature of the interests sold at the 1908 tax sale and the authority of the agent at the sale – precluded ruling in the Game Commission’s favor. Pa. Game Comm’n v. Thomas E. Proctor Heirs Trust, 455 F.Supp.3d 127 (M.D. Pa. 2020). The trial court subsequently entered a ruling in favor of the heirs following a 1 day bench trial, which ruling has been appealed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as of January 28, 2022.
Please contact your Metz Lewis relationship attorney or a member of our Oil and Gas team if you have any questions or wish to discuss.
This post was written by Brian Must, Josh Baker and Alison Viola