|EQT Production Co. wants a federal judge to grant a request to block an attempt by gas leaseholders from suing in state court for alleged royalty shortages.
West Virginians have long experienced being short changed by out of state corporations for their land and royalty holdings, from coal, natural gas, and oil to timber.
EQT claims in a motion filed Aug. 12 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia seeking the enforcement of the final judgment order for a $53.5 million statewide class action settlement that was approved in July 2019.
Four plaintiffs, Philip Williams, Timothy Williams, Diana Weiss and Mahlon Harris, filed litigation in Ritchie Circuit Court attempting to get royalty payments they claim EQT shorted them.
"The ... plaintiffs are violating the final order," the motion states. "While continuing to benefit from the settlement as settlement participants, they filed suit against several of the Defendants in West Virginia state court asserting claims for damages for alleged underpayment of gas royaltiesâthe exact claims that were released by the settlement agreement and barred by this court's final order."
EQT argues the plaintiffs in the Ritchie court case are prohibited from suing for underpayment of royalties under the permanent injunction entered in the 2019 final order.
"The gas royalty claims asserted by the Williams Plaintiffs in the Ritchie County Litigation were litigated, settled, and released in this case," the motion states. "The Williams Plaintiffsâ disregard of the injunction in the Final Order contravenes this Courtâs authority and denies Defendants the benefit of the Settlement Agreementâthat is, the full and final release of royalty claims that Defendants paid more than fifty million dollars to settle on a class-wide basis.
For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants respectfully request that the Court enforce its Final Order and prohibit the Williams Plaintiffs from proceeding with any and all gas royalty claims in the Ritchie County Litigation."
The litigation was originally filed in 2013. The final settlement order was filed in 2019. In the class-action lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed EQT made improper deductions from royalties to West Virginia gas leaseholders and EQT agreed to pay $53.5 million to the class for future royalties.
The Ritchie litigation plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2020. They claimed they were not aware that they were included in the agreement. EQT argued they had received proper notice.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 1:13-cv-00151