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Talmage v. Bradley

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 7, 2020

RALPH W. TALMAGE, AS TRUSTEE OF RALPH W. TALMAGE TRUST, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JACQUELINE M. BRADLEY, et al., Defendants.

          Deavers, Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. SMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs the Talmage and Haid Trusts initiated this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment to quiet title, asserting that their overriding royalty assignment is not subject to the 1994 Bradley Assignment, as well as a number of other claims. Defendants Jacqueline Bradley and the Estate of Ralph Bradley filed a Counterclaim against Plaintiffs and a Third-Party Complaint against Northwood Energy Corporation seeking to enforce the 1994 Bradley Assignment. The parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment and this Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and granted in part and denied in part Defendants/Cross-Claimants Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (See Doc. 69, March 26, 2019 Opinion and Order). This matter is currently before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 74) and Defendant Gulfport's Motion Suggesting a Stay, Modification, and/or Clarification (Doc. 75). These motions are fully briefed. For the reasons that follow, the Motions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are set forth in detail in this Court's March 26, 2019 Opinion and Order (Doc. 69). For purposes of this Order, the Court will summarize those facts. In April 1994, TransAtlantic Energy Corp., TransAtlantic Management Company, and TransAtlantic Gas Marketing, Inc. (collectively, “TransAtlantic”) assigned and conveyed various oil and gas leases, in whole or in part, and related oil and gas wells, to Eastern States Oil & Gas, Inc. (“Eastern”) (the “TransAtlantic-Eastern Assignment”). (Doc. 33 at ¶ 10-11; Doc. 33-1; Doc. 35 at ¶ 10; Doc. 48-2, Deposition of Ralph Talmage (“Talmage Dep.”) at 262B64; Doc. 48-3, Deposition of John DiFrangia (“DiFrangia Dep.”) at 71-73 & Ex. 6). The TransAtlantic-Eastern Assignment concerned over 11, 000 acres and 100 wells, including oil and gas leases located in Belmont, Monroe, and Noble Counties in Ohio that are specifically identified within Exhibit B to the TransAtlantic-Eastern Assignment (collectively referred to as the “Leases”). (Doc. 33-1 at Ex. B). The TransAtlantic-Eastern Assignment was recorded in Belmont, Monroe, and Noble Counties in Ohio. (Doc. 33, ¶¶ 13-15; Doc. 35, ¶¶ 13-15; Doc. 48-2 at 262-64).

         Eastern conveyed to Ralph L. Bradley, who was then an Eastern executive, a five percent (5%) overriding royalty interest in all the Leases. (Doc. 33-4). The Bradley overriding royalty interest (the “Bradley Override”) was granted in an assignment (the “Bradley Assignment”), which states in pertinent part as follows:

EASTERN STATES OIL & GAS, INC., a Virginia corporation, hereby does GRANT, BARGAIN, SELL, ASSIGN, TRANSFER AND CONVEY, subject to all of the provisions set out hereinafter, without warranty of title, either express or implied, unto RALPH L. BRADLEY (“Assignee”) an overriding royalty interest of five percent (5%) of 8/8ths (the “ORRI”) in and to all of the acreage subject [to] the Leases and in and to all oil and gas produced from, or allocated to, said Leases, . . .

         The Bradley Assignment was recorded in Monroe County on December 28, 1994, and in Belmont County on January 6, 1995. However, it was not recorded in Noble County. (See Doc. 33). Ralph Bradley owned the Bradley Override until March 20, 2017, when he assigned it to Jacqueline M. Bradley, his wife, and that assignment was thereafter recorded in Belmont, Monroe, and Noble Counties. (Doc. 33 at & 24; Assignment of Bradley Override to Jacqueline M. Bradley).

         The subject Leases were then transferred to NCL Appalachian Partners, LP (“NCL”). (Doc. 1, Compl. at & 13); then to Northwood Energy (the “NCL-Northwood Assignment”); and then ultimately to Gulfport and Antero. (Id. at ¶ 20; Doc. 33 at ¶ 38; Doc. 34 at ¶ 38; Doc. 36 at ¶ 38).

         In 2016, two former officers of Eastern, Barbara Bordelon and David Dresner, at the request of Ralph Bradley, recorded affidavits of fact related to the Leases in Noble County, Ohio. (Doc. 1-7; Doc. 1-8; Doc. 48-9). Ms. Bordelon prepared the Bradley Assignment, and Mr. Dresner signed the Bradley Assignment. (Doc. 48-9). These Affidavits stated that: (1) Eastern intended for the Bradley Override to cover the Leases in Noble County; and (2) Eastern was tasked with recording the 02059810-3 / 28877.00-0001 9 Bradley Override in all three counties, but through inadvertence failed to record it in Noble County. (Id.).

         Plaintiffs initiated this case on June 22, 2017, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Noble County interests of the Northwood-Talmage-Haid Partial Assignment (and the predecessor Assignments) are not subject to the 1994 Bradley Assignment. (See Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 43-47). The parties filed partial cross-motions for summary judgment. The Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and granted in part and denied in part Defendants/Third- Party Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Judgment was entered in favor of Defendants/Third-Party Plaintiffs on Plaintiffs' slander of title claim and the breach of contract claim. All other claims, counterclaims and cross-claims remain pending.

         Plaintiffs and Defendant Gulfport now ask the Court to reconsider its March 26, 2019 Opinion and Order. (See Docs. 74 and 75).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for reconsideration and/or to alter or amend judgment are not the proper vehicles to reargue the case or to present evidence which should have been raised in connection with an earlier motion. See Database Am., Inc. v. Bellsouth Advert. & Publ'g Corp., 825 F.Supp. 1216, 1219-20 (D. N.J. 1993); 11 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur Miller and Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure, §2810.1 (2d ed. 1995) (motions to alter or amend judgment cannot be used “to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to entry of judgment.”). “[A] motion for reconsideration should not provide the parties with an opportunity for a second bite at the apple.” In re Christie, 222 B.R. 64, 66 (Bankr. D. N.J. 1998) (citing Database, 825 F.Supp. at 1220). “A party seeking reconsideration must show more than a disagreement ...


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