Entek GRB v. Stull Ranches, No. 15-1267 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Two years ago, Entek GRB, LLC appealed a district court decision holding that it could not cross Stull Ranches' surface estate to access minerals lying under other estates in the same unitized area. Stull defended the district court’s decision on two grounds: (1) the doctrine of issue preclusion mandated the result; and (2) the district court’s judgment was decided on the merits because nothing in the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) permitted Entek the access it sought. In reviewing Entek's appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both arguments and returned the matter to the district court. Eventually, the district court entered judgment in favor of Entek, and on the second appeal, Stull asked the Tenth Circuit to reconsider essentially the same issues raised in the first appeal. The Tenth Circuit remained unmoved and affirmed judgment in favor of Entek: "[U]nder this circuit’s law of the case doctrine, '[a] legal decision made at one stage of litigation, unchallenged in a subsequent appeal when the opportunity to do so existed, [generally] becomes the law of the case.'"