ADAM BRIGGS, PAULA BRIGGS, HIS WIFE, JOSHUA BRIGGS AND SARAH BRIGGS, Appellants
SOUTHWESTERN ENERGY PRODUCTION COMPANY
from the Order Entered August 8, 2017 in the Court of Common
Pleas of Susquehanna County, Civil Division at No(s):
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., MURRAY, J., and MUSMANNO, J.
Briggs, Paula Briggs, his wife, Joshua Briggs, and Sarah
Briggs (collectively, "Appellants") appeal from the
Order granting Southwestern Energy Production Company's
("Southwestern") Motion for Summary Judgment,
denying Appellants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,
and denying as moot Appellants' Motion to
Compel. We reverse and remand for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
own an approximately 11.07-acre parcel of land in Harford
Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
is the lessee of oil and gas rights on a tract of land
adjoining Appellants' property. Since 2011, Southwestern
has continuously operated gas wells, known as the Innes Gas
Unit and the Folger Gas Unit, respectively, on property
adjacent to Appellants' property. Southwestern engages in
hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from the
Marcellus Shale formation through wellbores located on the
Innes and Folger Gas Units.
Southwestern does not have an oil and gas lease concerning
November 5, 2015, Appellants filed a Complaint, asserting
claims of trespass and conversion, and requesting punitive
damages. Appellants alleged that Southwestern, in its
operation of drilling units located on the adjoining
property, has unlawfully been extracting natural gas from
beneath Appellants' property. Appellants also alleged
that Southwestern's actions constituted a past and
filed an Answer and New Matter on December 23, 2015,
asserting, inter alia, that Appellants' claims
were barred by the rule of capture. Southwestern also filed a
counterclaim for declaratory relief, requesting that the
trial court confirm that Southwestern did not trespass on
filed an Answer to Southwestern's New Matter on January
parties engaged in discovery. Relevantly, Appellants sent
Southwestern three sets of Interrogatories. Southwestern
filed Objections and Answers to each of Appellants'
Interrogatories. On May 16, 2016, Appellants filed a Motion
to Compel answers to Interrogatories and a Motion for
Sanctions. Specifically, Appellants claimed that
Southwestern's responses to the Second and Third
Interrogatories were evasive and "demonstrate[d] a
calculated scheme of obduration[.]" Southwestern filed
an Answer on June 3, 2016.
April 24, 2017, Southwestern filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment and brief in support thereof, asserting, inter
alia, that Appellants' trespass claim must fail
because Southwestern had not entered Appellants'
property, and the rule of capture bars damages for drainage
of natural gas due to hydraulic fracturing. Additionally,
Southwestern requested summary judgment as to its
counterclaim for a declaratory judgment.
15, 2017, Appellants filed a Motion to Stay Resolution of
Southwestern's Motion for Summary Judgment. Appellants
argued that the case was not yet "ripe" for
resolution on summary judgment because Southwestern had not
provided Appellants with sufficient answers to their
Interrogatories, which are necessary to determine the extent
of Southwestern's actions in extracting natural gas.
Southwestern filed an Answer.
14, 2017, Appellants filed a Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment, and a brief in support thereof, as to the issue of
trial court held oral argument on both Motions. By an Order
dated August 8, 2017,  the trial court granted Southwestern's
Motion for Summary Judgment, denied Appellants' Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment, and denied as moot
Appellants' Motion to Compel. Therein, the trial court
agreed with Southwestern that, as a matter of law, the rule
of capture precluded recovery by Appellants.
filed a timely Notice of Appeal and a court-ordered Pa.R.A.P.
1925(b) Concise Statement of matters complained of on appeal.
On appeal, Appellants present the following claims for our
I. Did the [trial court] err in determining that the rule of
capture precluded any liability on the part of [Southwestern]
under the theories of trespass or conversion for natural gas
extracted by [Southwestern, ] even if said natural gas
originated under the lands of  Appellants and was extracted
from under Appellants' land by [Southwestern] through
II. Does the rule of capture apply to the extraction of
natural gas from under land owned by a third party (such as
 Appellants here) through the process of hydr[aulic
]fracturing[, ] so as to preclude any liability on the part
of [Southwestern] under the theories of trespass or
conversion for natural gas extracted by [Southwestern, ] even
if said natural gas originated under the lands of 
Appellants and was extracted from under Appellants' land?
Brief for Appellants at 2 (quotation marks omitted).
standard of review in evaluating a trial court's grant or
denial of ...