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Lori J. Meeko v. Southwestern Energy Production Company

December 27, 2012

LORI J. MEEKO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SOUTHWESTERN ENERGY PRODUCTION COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



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

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

(MAGISTRATE JUDGE BLEWITT)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Blewitt's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 26) to Defendant Southwestern Energy Production Company's ("SEPCO") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 16.) Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommends that the motion for summary judgment be granted. Plaintiff, Lori J. Meeko ("Ms. Meeko"), filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation. Ms. Meeko argues that "there is a multitude of disputed facts that require a jury trial on the breach of contract claim." Because SEPCO has satisfied its burden of demonstrating the lack of a genuine issue of fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and Ms. Meeko has not come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial, SEPCO's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. Background

As will be discussed in detail below, SEPCO complied with Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 56.1 in submitting a statement of material facts with citations to the record in support of its motion for summary judgment. Rather than respond paragraph-by-paragraph to SEPCO's statement of material facts, Ms. Meeko filed a "counter-statement of material facts." Because the counter-statement does not respond paragraph-by-paragraph to SEPCO's statement, I will set forth the relevant factual background first, and then I will recite the material facts as stated by each party.

A. The Lease

On or about April 26, 2008, Ms. Meeko entered into an oil and gas lease (the "Lease") with Elexco Land Services, Inc. ("Elexco"). (Doc. 1, Tab A, Ex. B., "Lease.") The Lease grants Elexco the right to explore and develop oil and gas wells on Ms. Meeko's sixty-seven (67) acre property in Bradford County, Pennsylvania during a five-year period. (Id.) The Lease consists of fifteen (15) paragraphs, as well as a nine (9) paragraph Addendum. (Id.) The Lease is signed by Ms. Meeko and notarized by a notary public. (Id.)

In exchange for Elexco's use of her property for drilling purposes, Ms. Meeko is entitled to one-eighth (1/8) of the sales proceeds actually received from the sale of such oil or gas production, less the same percentage share of post-production costs. (Id.) The agreement further provides that no payments are necessary to maintain the Lease in full force and effect during the five-year term. (Id.)

The Lease also addresses ownership changes under the agreement, and establishes that either party may assign, devise or otherwise transfer the party's rights and obligations under the Lease. (Id.)

The Addendum to the Lease provides that "Lessor reserves the right to approve the location of all well sites, access roads, pipelines and related appliances constructed or installed on the leased premises." (Id. at Addendum.) Such approval, however, "shall not be unreasonably withheld and shall be granted in a timely manner." (Id.)

B. Material Facts

1. Ms. Meeko's Material Facts

In opposing SEPCO's motion for summary judgment, Ms. Meeko filed a twenty-seven (27) paragraph "Counter-Statement of Material Facts." (Doc. 23, Pl.'s Counter-Statement Material Facts, "Pl.'s CSMF".) The evidence cited by Ms. Meeko in her counter-statement consists of the allegations in her Complaint and her eight (8) paragraph Affidavit.

According to Ms. Meeko, she is the owner of the subject property in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. (Compl., ¶ 3.) She originally owned the property with her late husband. (Meeko Aff., ¶ 1.) When her husband passed away, Ms. Meeko scattered his ashes in the meadow between her home and a pond on the premises. (Compl., ¶ 8.) The meadow comprises an area of approximately thirty (30) acres. (Meeko Aff., ¶ 2.)

Ms. Meeko entered into the Lease on or about April 26, 2008, and the Lease was assigned to SEPCO in May 2009. (Compl., ¶¶ 9, 13.) On or about January 2, 2011, Ms. Meeko received a telephone call from Frank McSloy, SEPCO's authorized agent. (Id. at ¶

15.) At that time, Mr. McSloy indicated that SEPCO was interested in putting a well on her property. (Id. at ¶ 16.) During that conversation, Ms. Meeko informed Mr. McSloy that she would not agree to having a well pad placed in the meadow. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

A few weeks later, on or about January 19, 2011, Ms. Meeko received a two page letter from Sam Sheets, another SEPCO authorized agent. (Id. at ¶ 23.) The letter stated that SEPCO intended to place a well pad on the leased premises as identified on a map included with the letter. (Id. at ¶ 25.) As no map was enclosed with the letter, Ms. Meeko contacted Mr. McSloy. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Mr. McSloy agreed to meet Ms. Meeko at her property on January 22, 2011 to provide a copy of the map and to review the proposed location of the well pad. (Id. at ¶ 27.)

On January 22, 2011, Ms. Meeko met with Mr. McSloy. (Id. at ¶ 28.) At that time, Ms. Meeko reviewed the map with the well pad description showing the proposed location to be in the meadow between her home and the pond. (Id. at ¶ 31.) Mr. McSloy then asked Ms. Meeko to countersign the letter, but she refused. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.) She also informed Mr. McSloy that she wanted her lawyer to review the letter. (Id. at ¶ 36.)

Prior to leaving her property, Mr. McSloy requested her to sign another document, which Mr. McSloy represented was solely a letter authorizing entry on her property for conducting a wetlands analysis. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Since she did not have her glasses, Ms. Meeko initially refused to countersign the letter. (Id. at ¶ 39.) But, after Mr. McSloy reassured her that the letter only addressed a wetlands analysis, Ms. Meeko relented and she countersigned the letter. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-41.) She subsequently learned that the letter authorized the well pad site in the meadow. (Id. at ¶ 43.)

Thereafter, Ms. Meeko "contacted Defendant on numerous occasions between January 22, 2011 and February 2, 2011 and thereafter expressing her disagreement with the subject placement of the well pad." (Meeko Aff., ¶ 8.) Specifically, she "contacted Mr. McSloy on several occasions requesting a copy of the signed document, which Mr. McSloy did not provide for several days." (Id. at ¶ 5.) Additionally, on February 3, 2011 and February 4, 2011, Ms. Meeko called Mr. ...


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