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Discovery and Document Preservation Issues Presented by Royalty Owner Lawsuits as Affected by Mergers and Acquisitions and Statutes of Limitation Decisions

J. Kevin Hayes, Private Oil & Gas Royalties: The Latest Trends, Developments, and Challenges in Oil & Gas Royalty Litigation

Royalty owner litigation continues to proliferate, resulting in an array of unique discovery and document preservation issues. These discovery and preservation issues are further complicated by significant merger and acquisition activity in the oil and gas industry. Additionally, court decisions in royalty owner litigation tolling otherwise applicable statutes of limitations for certain types of royalty claims amplify potential discovery and document preservation related problems. Discovery in royalty owner litigation typically involves significant quantities of data, including both traditional storage of data, i.e., paper, and electronically stored information (“ESI”). Consequently, a thorough understanding of recent changes in the Federal Rules related to electronic discovery (“e-discovery”) is required. In many instances, access to electronic data relevant to a royalty owner action may depend on the use of outdated software applications and hardware (“legacy systems”). Where royalty owners are successful in tolling the applicable statutes of imitations, the likelihood that relevant data will [13-2] reside on legacy systems is increased. It is essential for producers contemplating merger and acquisition activity to proactively address the management of data, in both electronic and traditional forms, in order to mitigate future discovery and document preservation-related iss