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Hunting Club Hires Saunders Law to Evaluate Mineral Rights And Respond to Claim of Competing Owners

Our client owns the surface of over 1000 acres of land used for recreational and hunting purposes for many decades. The client received an offer from a natural gas company to lease the oil and gas rights for development. An ancient deed from a previous owner reserved one half of the oil and gas rights and was the basis for a claim of the former owner’s heirs that they were cotenants with the client in the oil and gas beneath the land and therefore entitled to be apprised of and consulted regarding any offer to develop the resources. The client was not inclined to enter into a lease on the terms offered as they would permit extensive use and disturbance of the surface which would potentially eliminate its utility as a hunting club. After several demands by the heirs to meet with the client to discuss the proposed lease and the solicitation of other potential offers, the client retained Saunders Law to evaluate its mineral rights and investigate the heirs’ contention that the client owed them a duty to disclose the details of the proposed lease and that the cotenants could seek their own lease if the client would not cooperate. 

We advised our client that while under the circumstances it was not obligated to share information or consult with their cotenants, Pennsylvania law also generally permits either cotenant to lease their mineral interest without the consent of the other. However, Saunders Law discovered a clause in the deed which would arguably prevent the heirs from entering into a lease over our client’s objection. Eventually the heirs withdrew their demands and the client was able to maintain its property for the benefit of its members.