SALEM, Ohio — A 33-member group of Columbiana County landowners filed a lawsuit Feb. 27 against Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, claiming, among other things, that they were deprived of the “fair value right” of their land.
According to the lawsuit, the landowners leased their 3,000 acres of land sometime in 2008 with Anschutz Exploration Corporation. The landowners contend the lease gave them the right to seek third party offers or renegotiate prior to the commencement of drilling.
Chesapeake Exploration has since purchased the leases from Anschutz Exploration Corporation.
The lawsuit was filed by the Canton law firm, Tzangas Plakas Mannos and Raies Ltd.
The lawsuit was brought because the landowners in the suit say they have a right to receive fair value for their land to have it put to productive use within a reasonable period of time.
They contend that when they signed the leases, landmen told them they couldn’t get a higher bonus, and now they are able to obtain higher payments.
According to the lawsuit, landowners claim they received less than 1 percent of the fair market value for the upfront signing bonus payments that are currently being paid in Columbiana County, and the leases signed won’t protect the land.
The landowners also stated in the lawsuit that it was common practice for Anschutz land agents to sign the leases with the property owner and then take them to a notary.
The lawsuit contends the notary should have witnessed the landowner(s)’ signature as they signed the leases.
The suit also alleges that because the leases obtained by Anschutz Exploration Corporation were not properly notarized, the leases later obtained by Chesapeake were not eligible to recorded in the Columbiana County recorders office.
It also accuses Chesapeake Exploration LLC of not complying with Ohio law by not giving 30 days written notice to the landowners that they had acquired the leases and now had a interest in the land.
According to the lawsuit, the landowners also feel that they were deprived of the “fair value right” of their land. This means that within one year from the expiration or cancellation of the lease, the landowners should have been able to obtain a third-party offer to lease the land.
The landowners contend that this “fair value right” means that they should be able to obtain the signing bonus payments and royalty percentages that other landowners are getting in Columbiana County.
Each defendant listed in the lawsuit is seeking in excess of $25,000. A court date or mediation date has not been set by the court.