Legal Updates

Welborn’s Litigation Team Prevails in Proving Breach of Contract in 2-Month Trial

The Welborn litigation team of Sam Bacon, Brian Tooley, David Hrovat, and Anthony Roeber prevailed in a marathon jury trial spanning two months this past fall.  Welborn represented the plaintiffs, which were two non-operators of an oil lease outside Bakersfield, California.   They alleged that Aera Energy, which was jointly owned by ExxonMobil and Shell, had breached its obligations as the Operator of the lease, prioritizing its selfish bottom-line over the shared goals and commitments in the parties’ agreements.  As the presiding judge found after trial, “the overwhelming weight of evidence (far beyond Plaintiffs’ burden of preponderance) supports Plaintiffs’ contention that Defendant Operator prioritized its interests over those of Plaintiff non-operators in making numerous business decisions and that Defendant Operator concealed this standard.”  Over the two months, the Welborn team—in the words of the Court—”presented abundant evidence of failures by Defendant to perform certain actions required by the [contract] and its duties as Operator pursuant to the [contract].”  The Court ordered specific performance, a declaration granting the rare remedy of removing the Operator, and an injunction mandating the defendant turn over operations of the lease to the non-operators.

Defense counsel Vinson & Elkins passionately and aggressively defended the case, filing upwards of forty motions seeking to prevent the plaintiffs from obtaining any relief.  The Welborn Team won every dispositive motion in the years leading up to trial, during trial, and after the case was submitted, getting all claims pled through to a jury verdict finding breach of contract.  “We faced knowledgeable opposing counsel who expertly enacted a plan to try to confuse the Court and jury with technical excuses and red herrings,” recalls lead counsel Sam Bacon.  “I’m incredibly proud of our team of Brian, David, and Anthony, both in their legal skill putting on a case the jury could understand and their personal commitment to essentially move to Bakersfield for the fall to try this case.  It was also a pleasure and true asset working closely with in-house counsel for our clients to understand the wrong they had suffered and the story they wanted to tell the jury.  It was a privilege to right that wrong for them.”