On July 13, 2017, the Summit County Court of Common Pleas awarded Beck Energy $45,000.00 in attorney’s fees against the City of Munroe Falls (Munroe Falls) for having to defend against a frivolous lawsuit brought by the city. The frivolous Complaint sought (1) a Declaratory Judgment requiring Beck Energy Corporation (Beck Energy) to obtain a zoning certificate prior to the commencement of drilling the Sonoco oil and gas well and (2) a Stay prohibiting Beck Energy from commencing any drilling activities at the Sonoco oil and gas well.
After the filing of the frivolous Complaint, Beck Energy sent a letter demanding that Munroe Falls dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it lacked any good faith basis under the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., 143 Ohio St.3d 271, 2015-Ohio-485. Beck Energy’s letter pointed out that the conditional zoning certificate mentioned in the frivolous Complaint was the same zoning certificate Munroe Falls previously claimed was required in Morrison. In Morrison, decided on February 17, 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the very same zoning certificate that Munroe Falls attempted to require Beck Energy to obtain violated the Home Rule Amendment and the ODNR’s sole and exclusive authority to regulate oil and gas wells per ORC 1509.
Beck Energy warned Munroe Falls that it would seek sanctions for the frivolous Complaint if it wasn’t dismissed. Munroe Falls did not dismiss its frivolous Complaint and on July 14, 2016, the Court granted a converted Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Beck Energy. Thereafter, Beck Energy filed its Motion for Sanctions.
The Court granted Beck Energy’s Motion for Sanctions, awarded $45,000.00 in attorney’s fees and found “the filing of the lawsuit amounted to frivolous conduct” and “was brought for an improper purpose to cause unnecessary delay or needless expense.” In addition, Munroe Falls’s city officials failed to articulate any good faith basis to support their claims.
According to Beck Energy’s Attorney, Scott Zurakowski of Krugliak Wilkins Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A., “the decision by the Summit County Court of Common Pleas shows that the complaint filed by the City of Munroe Falls never had a good faith basis under Ohio law, and was filed solely to harass and maliciously injure Beck Energy.”
Beck Energy is a small, family-operated company owned by Raymond T. Beck employing approximately 20 people in 2 offices in Ravenna and Woodsfield, Ohio. Beck Energy operates more than 300 wells throughout various counties in Ohio, including Monroe, Noble, Washington Stark, Portage and Columbiana Counties.
According to Mr. Zurakowski, “the resources that the city of Munroe Falls used for this duplicative lawsuit would have been put to better use in providing raises and benefits to the city’s municipal employees, including police, fire and safety personnel.”
Founded in 1958, Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A. provides representation across various practice areas of law: Oil, Gas & Mineral Law, Corporate and Business Law, Real Estate and Construction, Labor and Employment, Employee Benefits, Workers’ Compensation, Commercial Lending and Finance, Taxation, Health Care, Environmental Law, OSHA, Trusts and Estates, and Litigation in all areas. The Firm has over 50 attorneys with offices throughout Northeast Ohio, serving Canton, Akron, Alliance, New Philadelphia, and Sugarcreek. For more information visit www.kwgd.com.