CARROLLTON, Ohio — A lawsuit was filed Oct. 23 in Carroll County by two farm families who say the landman who leased their land also acted as the notary and also used his relatives in attempts to lease land in five counties after they became notaries and reportedly held a direct economical interest in Patriot Energy.
William E. and Brenda Riggs of Mechanicstown, and Roger and Beverly Oyer, of Kensington, filed the lawsuit against Patriot Energy Partners LLC, LMF Holdings, Andrew W. Blocksom, Thomas R. Blocksom, Robert Dickey, Buckeye Oil Producing Co., Bass Energy, Wimsatt Family LLC, Sonata Investment Company, LTD. and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC.
The plaintiffs are asking that the leases be voided and that new ones are provided that would give sufficient protection to the land, air and water.
The Riggses and Oyers are acting as class representatives in what could be a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit asks that the judge declare it a class action lawsuit because of the number of property owners it potentially involves.
Both couples signed oil and gas leases with Patriot Energy Partners in 2008. They are being represented by attorney Brendan E. Delay from Westlake, Ohio.
According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs were told that $10 an acre in delay rentals was the best that could be paid, yet $15 an acre was paid to those who insisted on more payments.
The lawsuit claims the leases should be voided because company owner, Andrew R. Blocksom, acted as a notary and a landman. He also used his father, Thomas R. Blocksom, and his father-in-law, Robert Dickey, to notarize the leases. All three are accused of acting as the landman and the notary.
According to the court documents, Andrew Blocksom was commissioned in May 2008 as a notary. Thomas Blocksom received his commission in March 2008 and Dickey was commissioned in March 2008 as well.
The lawsuit states that few other legal documents besides the leases have been notarized by the trio.
According to the lawsuit, there are approximately 28,000 acres of oil and gas leases held by Patriot in Columbiana, Jefferson, Carroll, Harrison, Portage and Tuscarawas counties.
The leases were eventually sold to Buckeye Oil Producing Co., Bass Energy, Inc. Wimsatt Family, Sonata Investment Company and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC.
Class action lawsuit?
The lawsuit seeks class action status because of the number of individual lawsuits that could be filed in this instance.
In Carroll County, there are 260 recorded oil and gas leases in Carroll County covering about 12,825 acres, all leased to Patriot, according to the lawsuit. All but nine of these were notarized by Andrew Blocksom, Thomas Blocksom or Robert Dickey.
According to the lawsuit, there are 34 recorded leases in Jefferson County encompassing 5,267 acres; 52 recorded in Columbiana County accounting for 17,730 acres; four recorded in Portage County leasing a total of 123 acres; three in Tuscarawas County for 527 acres and 20 recorded in Harrison County including 198 acres. All of them were reportedly recorded as being leased to Patriot Energy.
Bill Dowling, from the law firm of Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs in Canton, is serving as the defendant’s attorney, representing Patriot Energy and all other entities mentioned except for Chesapeake Energy. He said he feels the lawsuit has no merit.
“We feel very strongly there is no merit whatsoever to the plaintiffs’ claims. We plan to defend them and we’re quite optimistic that we will prevail in the end,” said Dowling.
A court date of 1:30 p.m. Feb. 18 has been set in Carroll County Common Pleas Court. However, Delay told the Farm and Dairy that Chesapeake Energy has asked that the matter be handled in arbitration. Delay doesn’t feel the matter fits under arbitration because it does not apply to land title or land matters.
Calls to Chesapeake Energy for comment were not returned by presstime.