Wells v. Zadeck Energy GroupAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the doctrine of "contra non valentem" applied to suspend a ten year liberative prescriptive period applicable to an action by a mineral interest owner against the operator of a unit well who failed to pay the owner share of the proceeds for mineral production. Plaintiff James Wells filed suit after being contacted by a landman concerning leasing of his mineral interest in lands inherited from his parents. In the 1950s, Plaintiff's parents sold the land but reserved the mineral interests. Plaintiff's mother executed a mineral lease which was released a few years later because the well drilled resulted in a dry hole. However, the landowners executed their own mineral lease, which achieved production in 1965, and continued producing until 2007. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants Donald Zadeck and Zadeck Energy Group and several other companies who were allegedly conducting oil and gas exploration and production activities from his unleased unitized acreage without tendering to him (or his parents) their rightful share of proceeds from the production. In response, Zadeck filed a Peremptory Exception of Prescription, urging that Plaintiff's claim to recover payments was a quasi contract that prescribed ten years from Zadeck's successor's cessation of involvement with the "dry hole." Plaintiff argued that the doctrine of "contra non valentem" applied to suspend the running of prescription since he had no knowledge of the existence of the mineral interests or production until December 2008. Plaintiff contended that his ignorance was not attributable to any fault of his own, and he clearly exercised due diligence in discovering the relevant facts once he learned from the landman that he owned the mineral interests. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the doctrine of contra non valentem applied to suspend the running of prescription because the mineral interest owners did not know nor reasonably should they have known of the mineral production until December 2008.