Engle v. Elm Ridge Exploration Co., No. 11-2192 (10th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
A dispute arose between Elm Ridge Exploration Company, LLC, an operator of oil and gas leases in New Mexico, and Fred Engle, who owned a majority of those leases. Elm Ridge sought to recover drilling expenses by foreclosing on Engle's lease interests. Engle counterclaimed, arguing that Elm Ridge had no authority to operate, and broadly that Elm Ridge breached its contractual and fiduciary duties. Engle also filed a third-party complaint against the previous operators, Central Resources, Inc. and Giant Exploration & Production Company. The district court dismissed two counts on Engle's counterclaim against Elm Ridge and the third-party complaint on statute of limitations grounds. After a trial on Engle's remaining counterclaim count (breach of contractual and fiduciary duties), a jury found that Elm Ridge breached the Operating Agreement and could not recover drilling expenses. The jury found that Engle still owed Elm Ridge for other drilling costs. The district court calculated Engle's share of the costs not attributable to the breach, and held Elm Ridge was entitled to a foreclosure order. Both parties appealed. Finding no error in the district court's calculation or ultimate disposition of the case, the Tenth Circuit affirmed.