HARRISBURG — Two plaintiffs' failure to file a timely objection in connection with their deed restrictions violation lawsuit has cost them a new trial.
On March 22, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld a Feb. 12, 2016, decision made by the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County in favor of defendants James P. Snell, Anadarko E&P Co. LP and Chesapeake Appalachia LLC.
According to the Superior Court ruling, Snell leased oil and gas rights to Anadarko and Chesapeake on property sold to him by his cousin, Timothy J. Hoffman, and Karen D. Hoffman.
In their lawsuit, the Hoffmans claim that the deed drawn up by their lawyer prohibited the use of the 70-acre property sold to Snell “for any commercial enterprise whether fee-generating or not.”
The deed also prohibited improvements to the property, except for the installation of dirt roads for hunting, and stated that Snell could not grant any “easement, right-of-way, or license of any kind, for any purpose over or across said premises.”
Snell, Anadarko and Chesapeake argued that “the character of the neighborhood had changed with the arrival of multiple oil and gas operations, such that the purpose of the deed restrictions (maintenance of the rural, farmland character of the vicinity) no longer applied,” according to the Superior Court ruling.
The trial court agreed with the defendants, finding that the Hoffmans had allowed “a significant amount of oil and gas development to occur on their own property.”
The ruling said Timothy Hoffman’s parents, who live on an adjacent plot, had also “signed multiple oil and gas-related agreements for the use of their land.”
In addition, the trial court said the definitions of premises and commercial enterprise included in the deed drawn up by the Hoffmans’ lawyer were not clear.
The Superior Court said many of what the Hoffmans’ counsel claimed were objections to the trial court ruling “were neither contemporaneous nor specific” and came from a “49-page document which essentially consists of a lengthy (and often repetitive) reargument of the underlying case.”