IT CAME IN BIG FOR ROYALTY HOLDERS - Jury Awards $405 Million In Roane Class-Action Suit

(01/27/2007)

By Bob Weaver

A jury working overtime in Spencer late tonight awarded nearly $405 million dollars in a huge class-action lawsuit that accused Columbia Natural Resources of cheating on royalty payments.

It was the first class-action suit ever filed in rural Roane County.

The case centered on thousands of plaintiffs who had leased their property to Columbia Natural Resources.

Some of the leases dated back decades.

The suit originated from the anger of Garrison Tawney, a retired Roane County school teacher and royalty holder.

Now deceased, his deposition was read out-loud during the trial.

Interviewed by the Herald several years ago, Tawney said "We can't let them get by with this. They're making up their own rules."

The lawsuit accused the company of concealing post-production expenses that were deducted from the payments to royalty holders.

The case has been going on for several years, the trail about three weeks. It was heard by Roane County Circuit Judge Tom Evans III.

Mike Carey, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the ruling makes it clear that companies have to treat royalty owners fairly.

The lawsuit was filed in 2003. Since then, Columbia Natural Resources was bought by Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City in 2005.

Both sides had a cadre of attorneys who have been flocking to court hearings for at least two years.

See earlier Herald stories COLUMBIA