FORT WORTH (CN) — A Texas judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing an attorney of cutting another lawyer out of legal fees in Chesapeake Energy’s $51 million natural gas royalty settlement with more than 11,800 landowners in North Texas’ Barnett Shale formation.
Tarrant County Judge Dana Womack on Dec. 7 dismissed with prejudice Jim Ward and Wardlaw Services’ complaint against Dan McDonald and the McDonald Law Firm.
Court records indicate the parties agreed to a separate order that releases more than $5 million held in a trust fund pending disposition of the case, but there is no definitive indication of a settlement.
McDonald and Fort Worth-based Circelli, Walter & Young announced in July that 91 percent of their 13,000 clients agreed to the massive settlement reached with Chesapeake and France-based Total S.A. over claims they were cheated out of their fair share of natural gas royalties.
Ward sued McDonald days later, claiming he developed the “blueprint for victory,” while co-counsel got the public “recognition and spotlight.”
Ward claimed a database of “critical evidence” already existed when McDonald was soliciting clients. Ward demanded one-third of the approximately $20 million in legal fees from the settlement.
“Ward, together with his team of consultants and experts, developed and possessed the blueprint for victory,” his complaint stated. “Proving any one royalty owner’s case would be difficult and time-consuming on its own. Moreover, in the case of thousands of plaintiffs, it would be cost-prohibitive, as many plaintiffs only stood to gain a few hundred dollars if they prevailed against Chesapeake. Ward, an attorney with significant oil and gas experience, spent two years piecing together documents, court records, and data which effectively proved the case for all plaintiffs, not just certain plaintiffs.”