Comstock-eagle ford and strips & gores

Anyone ever heard of this?

Members of my family inherited some small mineral interests in McMullen County going back 75 years. We negotiated a three year lease for them with Comstock after they approached us. They paid us around $25K in bonus money (collectively) and the leases were executed in May, 2012.

In August 2012 we received an email from their landman saying they had made a mistake, were invalidating the leases based on a determination by their title examiner, and would get back to us within a week for a conference call as well as submit a copy of the examiners reort. That was August 6th, and now they have simply shut down. We do not get the courtesy of any response. They did say we could keep the bonus money.

I am very uncomfortable with a company that makes such a determination without support, by email, and then trots off to do as they please. I am not an expert in Texas law, but as a former title examiner in Illinois, I am not unfamiliar.

Any suggestions on how to proceed? I don't know if this is worth an attortney or not. Still, I'm not happy to be ignored. My thanks in advance.

J S Morgan said:

Happens regularly, unfortunately across the country. Cool you get to keep the money. That probably means it was just a fuzzy title chain. They didn't feel confident drilling with the docs they had with your family. I they signed the wrong family and were mislead, they could probably get it back. I wrote about this in some older posts.

You probably should lawyer up incase you have title clean up to do. And get a professional set of eyes of the lease doc. But if there is a screw up where they picked up the wrong land, then I don't think you will get anyone to believe that $25k and the chance to lease again to another company doesn't "make you whole again".

Thank you Mr. Morgan. I appreciate the information. Here's a portion of the email we all received:

"We have received the title opinion back from the Attorney this week. According to his legal findings the leases that were taken with all of you by Comstock are invalid. When Louise Franklin conveyed the 215 acres adjoining the 18.55 highway acreage the minerals from the 18.55 go along with it. This is all according to a Texas state law of Strips & Gores. I will be calling everyone this week to further explain how it works and also sending you a copy of the Title Opinion. Comstock will be filing a release of the Original Oil & Gas leases that were taken. As this was our mistake the bonus money is yours to keep."

I began to sense she thought us old Illinois Yankees didn't know a strip from a gore. Anyway, the promise of calls, documentation and follow up have all gone for nothing. I began to think if they made one mistake, they could have made another. (I can tell you that, up here, people who make $25K "mistakes" don't work long.)

In addition, there was a much smaller interest in McMullen County they sent a lease out on in May. That lease was never returned accepted by them, and we've never had any follow up at all from them on that. Maybe it's just my native northern cynicism, but I'm beginning to smell a rat.

In any event, I'm very grateful to you for your input.

Hugh James

When you signed the lease, was it only on the 18.55 acres that lays under the highway or was there other interest involved as well?

Since you have experience examining title, you might want to check out They have land record for McMullen County going back to the 1980's I beleive. You pay by the page, but if you smell a rat, it may be worth it to find the records for yourself.

Inexperienced landmen make this type of mistake all the time -- even those with some years of experience, if they were not properly trained. The strip and gore doctrine is not applicable, for example, in Louisiana, but is applicable in Texas.

It would be very nice to see the title opinion to get it straight.

Buddy is correct. Texas does follow the strip and gore doctrine, as a general rule. Also would need to look at the deed conveying the right of way to the state.

The strip and gore doctrine is applicable in Texas, as has been noted, however, that is not to say it is always applied correctly. My guess is that you leased the 18.55 acres as the landman involved believed that that mineral interest had been retained when the 215 acres was sold, and the title attorney has determined that as a proportion of 215 acres, 18.55 acres is sufficiently a "strip" and therefore, absent a specific reservation, said title went with the 215 acres. There is more to the strip and gore doctrine than that, but it sounds plausible.

As has also been noted, without looking at the instruments in question, and knowing more about the subsequent history, it is not possible to make a more definitive interpretation. I would say that the fact that they are leaving you with the $25k makes it sound very much like they wish to avoid fighting about it in court, or the owner(s) of the 215 acres are claiming the 18.55 acres also and have made enough noise to get the operator to listen.

Feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

An old, blind lady who befriended me because I was extremely patient with her and refused to take advantage of her during the leasing process had an issue that she was dealing with on a separate tract. Her father had sold some land to the State of Texas in the 1960's for construction of the Interstate highway going through his property, and reserved all minerals. Then he sold the land on each side, kept the minerals on those adjoining tracts, but because he did not make it undeniably clear when he sold the tracts on either side of the highway that he intended to keep the minerals UNDERNEATH the highway, an appellate court in Texas whose jurisdiction covers several counties in the Barnett Shale said that, under the strips-and-gores doctrine (not a state law but a doctrine in case law), those minerals now belong to the landowners on either side of the highway, split evenly. As I recall, this court case, whose styling I cannot recall, said that the Court Order applied retroactively, which seems like an unbelievable miscarriage of justice. After all, people in these types of situations might have been going on for decades or generations thinking that they owned these minerals and then, just because one man in a robe says so, they don't? It seems like those scenarios that happened before the court case should have been "grandfathered." Anyway, I don't think it's worth hiring an attorney because I think the Title Opinion in your case is correct.