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Eisenberger v. Appalachia

February 4, 2010

DEAN N. EISENBERGER, SR. AND THERESA EISENBERGER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHESAPEAKE APPALACHIA, LLC AND STATOILHYDRO USA ONSHORE PROPERTIES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to compel arbitration. (Doc. 8.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, this Court will deny the Defendants' motion to compel arbitration.

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows.

Plaintiffs are the owners of a parcel of land comprising approximately 58.1 acres in Windham Township, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, which is believed to be located over a "subsurface geologic formation" containing natural gas known as the Marcellus Shale. (Compl. ¶ 4-5.) Plaintiffs received an unsolicited communication from Premier Land Services, LLC ("Premier"), which is a leasing agent for Defendant Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC ("Chesapeake"). (Id. at ¶ 7.)

On February 22, 2008, Plaintiffs notified premier of their desire to negotiate a lease with Chesapeake. (Id. at ¶ 8.) On March 3, 2008, Premier forwarded an unsigned document entitled "Paid Up Oil and Gas Lease" ("the Lease") that listed Chesapeake as the lessee and Mr. Eisenberger as the lessor of the Property; Mr. Eisenberger's wife, Plaintiff Theresa Eisenberger, was not listed on the lease. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Mr. Eisenberger signed the lease and returned it to Premier on or about March 10, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 12.)

On March 28, 2008, Ms. Eisenberger reviewed the Lease, noticed that it incorrectly identified her husband as a single man and did not list her as a co-owner of the property; Mr. Eisenberger then contacted Premier to alert them to the situation. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-15.) On March 29, 2009, Mr. Eisenberger sent a letter to Premier via mail and fax advising Premier to "void all current paperwork and forward me a revised and updated agreement for review." (Id. at ¶ 16.) Later that day, Mr. Eisenberger received a telephone call from a Premier employee acknowledging receipt of the letter sent by Plaintiffs and stating that the matter would be forwarded to the Premier's main office. (Id. at ¶ 17.) On April 8, 2008, John Corcoran, who identified himself as the president of Premier, contacted Mr. Eisenberger and explained that he would contact Chesapeake's legal department, who would in turn respond to Plaintiff's letter. (Id. at ¶ 18.) On April 17, 2008, Corcoran called Mr. Eisenberger, explained that Chesapeake's position was that the Lease "was still good" and offered an increase in the bonus contemplated in the Lease. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

On May 12, 2008, Plaintiffs sent a letter via certified mail entitled "Revocation of Initial Lease Offer," notifying Premier that Plaintiffs were revoking the offer and demanding the return of all documents. (Id. at ¶ 22.) On June 20, 2008, Mr. Eisenberger received a copy of the Lease and a bank note from Premier in the amount of twenty-nine thousand, fifty dollars ($29,050.00), which represented the Bonus Consideration and money for "delay rental" under the Lease; Plaintiffs have not cashed this note. (Id. at ¶ 23.) On August 18, 2008, the lease was recorded in the chain of title by the Wyoming County Recorder of Deeds. (Id. at ¶ 24.)

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Wyoming County on June 17, 2009. In that Complaint, Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment finding that the lease signed by Mr. Eisenberger was an offer, not a valid and enforceable contract, which was revoked by Plaintiffs on March 28, 2008 (Count I). Plaintiffs also brought a claim to quiet title on the property (Count II). The case was removed to this Court by joint notice on July 21, 2009. (Doc. 1.) On December 7, 2009, Defendants filed the instant motion to compel arbitration. (Doc. 8.) This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Pennsylvania law, parties must submit their claims to arbitration if: (1) the parties entered into an agreement to arbitrate and (2) the dispute falls within the scope of the agreement. Messa v. State Farm Ins. Co., 641 A.2d 1167, 1168 (Pa. Super. 1994). Motions to compel arbitration are governed under the summary judgment standard set forth in FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). InterDigital Commc'ns Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 392 F. Supp. 2d 707, 711 (E.D. Pa. 2005). Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party establishes that "there is no genuine issues as to any material fact and that [it is] entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c).

In considering a motion to compel arbitration, the Court must consider all of the non-moving party's evidence and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Versage v. Twp. of Clinton N.J., 984 F.2d 1359, 1361 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court's function is not to weigh evidence and determine the truth of the ...


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