Oil company fights back against 'sue and settle' litigation

... Cabot's management chose to challenge what it saw as a double-dip filing, and the judge rewarded the company by dismissing the suit in a summary judgment. In normal corporate behavior, that would have been the end of things.

But Cabot's management had, in the words of company spokesman George Stark, "grown weary of this 'sue and settle' racket" that it believes this case represents. So, rather than just let the matter drop, Cabot's management chose instead to file a counter-suit against Mr. Kemble and his lawyers. "We aren't suing a landowner," says Stark, "We're suing a big law firm."

The main firm targeted by the suit is the Speer Law Firm, a Missouri-based firm headed by plaintiff attorney Charles F. Speer. The suit also includes the Pennsylvania firm of Ciarimboli, Boylan and F&C, which partnered with Speer in Mr. Kemble's filing. Cabot's complaint is self-explanatory, and reads in part:

  1. Prior to 2012, Defendant Speer, a pig farm nuisance lawyer from Missouri, routinely filed suits against those in the agricultural industry based on alleged damages from odors and other purported nuisances.
  2. After Missouri enacted legislation at the end of 2011 that put an end to Speer's pig farm lawsuits, Speer set his sights on Pennsylvania and switched his focus from pigs to rigs.
  3. In the process, Speer and Speer Law teamed up Ciarimboli, Boylan, and F & C to commence nuisance claim lawsuits against natural gas operators in Pennsylvania.
  4. One of their new Pennsylvania clients, Kemble, had sued Cabot and GDS in 2009 and settled his claims in 2012.
  5. Following the 2012 settlement agreement, Kemble spent the next five years breaching its terms.
  6. Despite knowing that Kemble had settled his claims against Cabot and GDS in 2012, Speer, Speer Law, Ciarimboli, Boylan, and F & C drafted and filed a 24-page complaint against Cabot and GDS in April of 2017, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania ("2017 Complaint"), for which they had no probable cause. See, Ex. A, a copy of the 2017 Complaint.
  7. The 2017 Complaint included irrelevant and inflammatory allegations designed to harass Cabot and GDS, attract media attention, poison the community and jury pool against Cabot and GDS, and extort payment from Cabot and GDS when no legitimate claims existed.
  8. As a result of all Defendants' tortious, intentional, malicious, and wrongful use of process, and Kemble's multiple breaches of the 2012 settlement agreement, Cabot and GDS are seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amount of $5,000,000.00.
Oil and gas companies and pig farmers are not the only victims of the sue and settle game.  It also happens to investment bankers who are sued when initial public offering stock goes down in value because of market conditions.

I recall another case where a broker had put a client into a tech stock that did very well.  During the downturn shortly before 2000 almost all of the tech stocks went down in value.  The buyer sued, but the case was dismissed because, despite the decline in value, he had never sold any shares at a loss.  It was still worth much more than he originally paid for it.


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