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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Affirmed: NRP Oil and Gas' award of nearly $500,000 in attorneys' fees in contract case

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Aug 19, 2019


Texas First District Court of Appeals Justice Julie Countiss | txcourts.gov

HOUSTON – A panel of judges on the Court of Appeals in the First District of Texas ruled that there was enough evidence to back attorney’s fees and damages awards for an oil company on Aug. 15.

Sundance Energy Inc. filed the appeal, arguing that appellee NRP Oil and Gas LLP failed to provide enough evidence to show the 125th District Court in Harris County that it was entitled to attorney’s fees and damages in trial entered in NRP's favor. The lower court awarded NRP damages of $988,254, plus attorneys' fees of nearly $500,000.

"We conclude that the record lacks any evidence that Sundance is entitled to an offset as requested," Justice Julie Countiss wrote. "Accordingly, we hold that the evidence is factually and legally sufficient to support the jury’s damages award."

NRP sued Sundance over allegations of breach of contract and sought compensatory and actual damages, declarations and pre- and post-judgment interest as well as attorney’s fees. NRP alleged that Sundance did not keep up its end of a $35 million purchase agreement for oil and gas leases and wells in North Dakota. The lower court ruled in favor of NRP and also denied Sundance’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). 

Countiss overruled with Sundance's argument that the evidence was insufficient to support the award of attorney’s fees for NRP. 

“The trial court specifically made a finding of no unfair surprise or unfair prejudice," she wrote. "Additionally, the trial court offered a continuance for Sundance in order to allow it 'to conduct any additional discovery into the subject matter of the attorney[’s] fees' that was raised by the untimely disclosure. Sundance declined a continuance, and the trial court overruled Sundance’s objection and request to exclude NRP’s evidence of attorney’s fees based on its untimely disclosure."

The justice wrote that the trial court did not err in admitting the attorneys' fees evidence for NRP.

While Sundance argued a continuance would not have helped the unfair surprise or prejudice, Countiss said Sundance can’t cry unfair prejudice now after it refused a continuance.

The justice then noted that NRP’s legal team submitted detailed invoices that proved the amount of attorney’s fees for the case. While Sundance appealed that there also wasn’t enough evidence to back the damages award since the jury didn’t consider evidence of Sundance’s right to offset, the Countiss said “there is nothing ... that would establish Sundance’s right to an offset,” in the section of the PSA that it mentioned.

Justices Russell Lloyd and Sarah Beth Landau concurred. 

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