United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
PERRY CLINE, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
SUNOCO, INC. (R&M), and, SUNOCO PARTNERS MARKETING & TERMINALS, L.P., Defendants.
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge.
Cline owns a royalty interest in one or more oil wells in
Oklahoma. Sunoco, Inc. (R&M), and Sunoco Partners
Marketing & Terminals, L.P. ("Sunoco"),
purchase and resell oil from Cline's wells. Oklahoma law
requires Sunoco to pay proceeds from the oil to Cline. If
Sunoco pays the proceeds late, it must pay Cline interest on
the payment at a rate set forth in Oklahoma's Production
Revenue Standards Act ("PRSA"). See Okla.
Stat. tit. 52, § 570, et seq. Cline has sued
Sunoco for paying his production proceeds late without paying
the required interest.
October 3, 2019, the Court granted Cline's motion to
maintain a class action on behalf of other
owners whom Sunoco paid late and did not pay
interest. On October 8, 2019, Sunoco filed a motion to stay
the case pending its appeal of the Court's class
certification ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Tenth Circuit. On October 17, 2019, Sunoco filed its appeal.
Because Sunoco has not established that the Court should stay
this action pending the appeal, the Court will deny the
appeal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) "does
not stay proceedings in the district court unless the
district judge or the court of appeals so orders."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(f). When deciding a motion to stay, courts
generally consider the same factors as those used when
deciding motions for preliminary injunctions: (1) the
likelihood of the moving party's success on the merits of
the appeal; (2) whether the moving party will suffer
irreparable harm if the case proceeds; (3) whether staying
the action will substantially injure the non-moving party;
and (4) the public interest. See generally Nieberding, et
ah v. Barrette Outdoor Living, Inc., et al. v. No.
12-2353-DDC-TJJ, 2014 WL 5817323 (D. Kan. Nov. 10, 2014).
the first prong, Sunoco advances several arguments to show
that it will likely succeed on the merits. For many of the
same reasons set forth in the Court's Opinion on class
certification, the Court does not find that these arguments
raise legal questions that the Tenth Circuit has not
previously addressed. Nor does Sunoco raise questions
"so serious, substantial, difficult[J and doubtful, as
to make them a fair ground for litigation and thus for more
deliberate investigation" Id. at *3.
succeed on the second prong, Sunoco must show that it will
suffer irreparable harm if the action proceeds.
"[I]rreperable harm ... must be certain, great, [and]
actual," not merely theoretical, serious, or
substantial. Heidman v. S. Salt Lake City, 348 F.3d
1182, 1889 (10th Cir. 2003). Monetary losses that a party
cannot recover "can constitute irreparable harm."
Nieberding, 2014 WL 5817323, at *4.
argues that it will incur "substantial litigation
costs" preparing the case for trial and trying the case
on a class basis, and that "all that work will have been
for naught" if the appeal succeeds. (Dk. No. 131, at 7.)
Even if Cline proceeded individually and not on behalf of the
class, however, Sunoco would incur many of the same
litigation costs related to defending against the merits of
this action. Further, the Court recognizes that the parties
will have incurred unnecessary costs identifying class
members if the Tenth Circuit decertifies the class. But the
Court does not conclude that this amounts to irreparable harm
succeed on the third prong, Sunoco must show that staying the
action will not substantially injure Cline. Sunoco has
admitted that it has the ability to calculate the interest
owed to an interest owner, but has declined to do so unless
an owner requests that interest. Sunoco, therefore, is
sitting on millions of dollars owed to the interest owners
that it has the ability to pay, but Sunoco has simply
declined to do so pursuant to business practices that it has
not changed since Cline initiated this action. Staying the
action, therefore, presents a harm beyond just a "delay
of the proceedings." Nieberding, 2014 WL
5817323, at *4. Moreover, even if the Tenth Circuit
decertifies the class, a ruling on the equitable relief Cline
seeks will necessarily affect whether Sunoco continues to
follow its current business practices for paying all interest
owners. Thus, Sunoco has not established that staying the
deadlines will not substantially injure Cline, and that the
potential of class confusion outweighs other considerations
before the Court.
succeed on the fourth prong, Sunoco must show that the public
interest favors a stay. Sunoco reiterates its argument about
class confusion, but, as explained above, that does not
outweigh other considerations at play here. Sunoco also
argues that judicial economy favors a stay. The Court has
already expended resources deciding the motion for class
certification, so staying the case at this point would not
significantly conserve judicial resources. The Court will
also inevitably expend resources deciding pretrial matters
regardless of whether Cline proceeds individually or on
behalf of the class. Given the nature of the claims, the
Court does not conclude that the class claims will present
substantially different pretrial issues than those the
parties will raise if Cline proceeds individually. Thus,
Sunoco has not shown that the public interest favors a stay.
Sunoco has not established that the factors weigh m favor of
staying the proceedings, the Court will deny the motion to
Clerk will issue an appropriate Order.
Clerk send a copy of this Opinion to ...