(11/22/2008)
Circuit judge Thomas Evans III gave final approval today to a deal that settles a 6-year court battle involving stakeholders that brought a lawsuit over abuse of their royalty rights.

Attorneys had reached a preliminary settlement in the case that would reduce the jury's verdict of $404 million to $380 million and fore-go interest accumulated since the verdict.

In exchange, Chesapeake Energy and NiSource, the successors to CNR, would drop their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Evans' ruling today will divide the money among 10,000 royalty holders.

The Roane County verdict decided royalty holders were being cheated when the gas company drilled on their holdings, the producers charging them for part of the production costs.

The late Garrison Tawney, a Roane County teacher, filed the class-action lawsuit when he realized the numbers on his statements from Columbia Gas weren't adding up.

(Read earlier Herald stories).

His daughter Anne Goff said after Saturday's hearing, "My father would be very proud of this moment though, that it's finally over."

A sticking point was the pay for lawyers.

They requested $126 million, and the judge approved.

More than 10,000 natural gas well royalty owners may not be the only ones who may stand to benefit.

The Roane County Commission is wanting a piece of the action.


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