Monday, November 25, 2013

Elliff v. Texon Drilling Co. case brief

Elliff v. Texon Drilling Co. case brief summary
210 S.W.2d 558 (Tex. 1948)

Petitioner land owners appealed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals (Texas), which reversed the trial court's judgment for the land owners in their action to recover damages resulting from a blowout of a gas well drilled by respondent oil companies.

The landowners owned the surface and certain royalty interest of land upon which a producing well was located, as well as the mineral estate underlying the land. While the oil companies were engaged in drilling an offset well, the offset well blew out, caught fire, and cratered. The blowout resulted in the destruction of the landowners' well and drained large quantities of gas and distillate from under their land. The landowners filed suit. The trial court entered judgment for the landowners. The appellate court reversed the judgment, and this appeal followed.


  • The court reversed the appellate court's judgment. 
  • The appellate court was without authority to pass upon the propriety of the measure of damages adopted by the trial court because no such assignment was presented to it. 
  • The law of capture did not absolve the oil companies from liability because the negligent waste and destruction of the landowners' gas and distillate was neither a legitimate drainage nor a lawful or reasonable appropriation of them. 
  • Under the common law, the oil companies were legally bound to use due care to avoid the negligent waste or destruction of the minerals, and they failed to discharge this duty.
The court reversed the judgment of the appellate court, and the case was remanded to the appellate court for further proceedings.

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