THOMAS "TOM" ALAN ZABEL
Tom Zabel has over three decades of experience trying cases before state and federal courts, administrative agencies and arbitration panels, and handling numerous appeals; including handling appeals before almost every Texas Court of Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, federal courts in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and the Third and Fifth Circuit Courts of Appeals. Tom's practice has focused, and continues to focus, primarily on cases involving oil, gas, and other minerals, land and environmental matters, oil and gas and real estate litigation, contractual disputes, products liability issues, fiduciary litigation, condemnation proceedings, energy transactions and litigation, environmental and contamination litigation, and ad valorem and other tax litigation involving oil, gas, and other minerals, pipelines, offshore vessels and midstream and downstream facilities. Tom's clients include major and independent oil and gas companies, service companies, pipeline companies and individuals.
Tom has held an AV peer review rating as reported by Martindale Hubbell for over 20 years, and has been selected as a Texas Super Lawyer in Energy & Natural Resources by Texas Monthly magazine every year since 2003, as one of the Texas Super Lawyer Top 100 Attorneys in Houston, and by H-Magazine as a Top Energy Attorney in Houston. Tom is a petroleum engineer and worked for the Railroad Commission of Texas as a petroleum engineer prior to and during law school. Tom has been board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Oil, Gas & Mineral Law since 1991. Tom has authored several publications and has been a speaker at numerous continuing legal education seminars.
South Texas College of Law, J.D., 1987
- Cum Laude
Texas A & M University, B.S., 1983
State Bar of Texas, 1987
US District Courts for the Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern Districts of Texas
US District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma
US District Courts for the Northern District of Ohio and Eastern District of Michigan
US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Tx Rice v. Denbury, 48 St. Mary’s L. J. Number 4 (2017).
Environmental Law Simplified: A Practical Guide for Oil & Gas Operations, PennWell Books, Tulsa and Houston, 1993 (co-authored)
Buyer Beware: Evaluating Environmental Liabilities in Oil and Gas Transactions, PennWell Books, Tulsa and Houston, 1995 (co-authored)
Interest of Uncommon Denominator, Energy Law Report, Texas Lawyer August 4, 1997
SEMINARS AND PRESENTATIONS
Pipeline Company Condemnation of Easements--New Common Carrier Test from Denbury Green v. Texas Rice Decisions, CLE International, Eminent Domain, May 10 and 11, 2018, Houston, Texas
Condemnation After Denbury v. Texas Rice Part II: The New Texas Supreme Court Decision, State Bar of Texas 35th Annual Advanced Oil, Gas & Energy Resources Law, September 27-28, 2017, Houston, Texas
“Texas Rice v. Denbury” State Bar of Texas Oil and Gas Disputes, January 26-27, 2017, Houston, Texas
Pipeline Condemnation Post Denbury, TexasBar CLE, September 29-30, 2016, Houston, Texas
Installing Pipeline Infrastructure Post Texas Rice v. Denbury, State Bar of Texas, Oil and Gas Disputes, January 28-29, 2016
Key Issues in Pipeline Takings (Common Carrier and Gas Utility Pipelines) Right to Take Issues & Challenges, Eminent Domain Institute Houston, Texas October 1-2, 2015, Houston, Texas
Overview of the Denbury Case and Ramifications to the Industry, 53rd Annual IRWA Region 2 Refresher Seminar and Educational Courses, August, 2015 College Station, Texas
Recent Appellate Cases Dealing with Right to Take Issues to Common Carrier and Gas Utility Pipelines and an Update on Texas Rice v. Denbury Green Case, National Business Institute Eminent Domain Start to Finish, March 17, 2015, Houston, Texas
Industry Perspective on City Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations and Legal Challenges Texas Municipal League, January 9, 2015 Austin, Texas
Leading Issues in Texas Pipeline Condemnation, 61st Mineral Law Institute April 3-4, 2014 LSU Law Center
Supreme Court Landowner Condemnation - Industry Perspective after Texas Rice v. Denbury Green, 39th Annual Ernest E. Smith Oil, Gas and Mineral Law Institute March, 2013
Leading Issues in Pipeline Condemnation-Condemner Perspective, CLE International’s 3rd Annual Eminent Domain Conference, Austin 2013
Leading Issues in Pipeline Condemnation-Case Law Update, IRWA 59th Annual International Education Conference Charleston, West Virginia 2013
Pipelines and Eminent Domain after Texas Rice v. Denbury Green, South Texas College of Law 25th Annual Energy Law Institute for Attorneys and Landmen, August 29-30, 2012
Boundary Law, Legal Issues for Texas Civil Engineers, January 25, 2007
Land Rustling Texas Style, American Association of Mineral Owners, September 22, 2004
Mineral/Royalty Owner’s Dilemma: Do I Lease, Ratify or Do Nothing?, National Association of Royalty Owners Houston Seminar, June 24, 2004
Land Rustling in Texas Under the Vacancy Statutes, TIPRO Mid-Winter Policy Meeting, January 12, 2004
Legal Sufficiency of Land Descriptions in Oil and Gas Instruments, Corpus Christi Association of Landmen Spring 2003 Seminar
Coastal Oil v. Garza March 10, 2009 Panel Member State Bar Webcast
Texas Bar Foundation, Fellow
State Bar of Texas - Litigation Section and Oil & Gas Section, Section Member
International Right-of-Way Association, Member
Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute, Member
Argued one of the more cited deed construction cases in Texas before the Texas Supreme Court. Luckel v. White, 819 S.W.2d 459 (Tex. 1991).
Obtained reversal and rendition by the Texas Supreme Court of judgment of the Texarkana Court of Appeals in which the Texarkana court had held that an operator could not get the benefit of non-consent provisions of a joint operating agreement if the operator commenced operations before the thirty day AFE notice period had expired. Valence Operating Company v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656 (Tex. 2005).
Obtained take-nothing judgment in trial of a tax delinquency suit in which the taxing authorities sought substantial penalties and interest on a large commercial tract. Obtained reversal and rendition per curiam from the Texas Supreme Court of the Houston Court of Appeals, who had reversed and rendered the trial court's judgment in favor of the taxing authorities. Old Farms Owners Association, Inc. v. Houston Independent School District, 277 S.W.3d 420 (Tex. 2009) (per curiam).
Successfully established common carrier status of Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC before the Texas Supreme Court in one of the most significant condemnation decisions in the last century. Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC, 510 S.W.3d 909 (Tex. 2017).
Successfully secured emergency relief from the Texas Supreme Court in a mandamus action allowing Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC to have immediate access to its easement, across Texas Rice's land. In re Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC, Cause No. 09-17-00242-CV (order granting relief dated July 26, 20-17).
Obtained one of the largest jury verdicts in Harris County Probate Court (over $180,000,000) after a four week jury trial in a breach of fiduciary duty/trust case, and secured a judgment on appeal with a value in excess of over twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) and the removal of the trustee. See Lee v. Lee, 47 S.W.3d 767 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 2001, pet. denied).
Obtained dismissal of a Exxon Mobil from large vacancy claim involving close to one thousand affected landowners and hundreds of millions in disputed oil and gas revenues, based on constitutional amendment which was originally prepared for the King Vacancy Claim (see Significant Representations) and was revised to include the Smith County Vacancy Claim. Byers v. Patterson, 219 S.W.3d 514 (Tex. App.--Tyler 2007, no pet. hist.).
Obtained affirmance by district court and appellate court, of no vacancy findings by the GLO on vacancy claim filed against Amoco Production Company, involving tens of millions of dollars. Dixon v. Dewhurst, 169 S.W.3d 515 (Tex. App.--Texarkana 2005, no pet.).
Successfully tried and obtained affirmance on appeal of joint operating dispute over non-consent penalties involving well revenues in excess of $100,000,000. TransTexas Corp. v. Forcenergy Onshore, Inc., 2012 WL 1255128 (Tex. App.-- Corpus Christi 2012, pet. denied).
Prevailed in trial court and received unanimous affirmance on appeal establishing that TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP's Keystone pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas qualifies as a common carrier under Texas law and that the Texas Supreme Court's decision in Texas Rice v. Denbury Green does not apply to crude lines. Rhinoceros Ventures Group, Inc. v. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P., 388 S.W. 3d 405 (Tex. App.-- Beaumont 2012, pet. denied).
Obtained take nothing judgment in Federal Bankruptcy Court in case involving drainage, pooling and underpayment of royalty claims wherein damages sought against client exceeded twenty million dollars, and obtained affirmation of the take-nothing judgment from the federal district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. See Helton v. Tri-Union Development Corporation, 236 Fed. Appx. 29 (5th Cir. 2007).
Obtained take-nothing judgment on claims asserted by an uncommitted mineral interest owner, in a dispute exceeding several million dollars, and obtained affirmation of that decision on appeal. See Amoco Production Company v. Wood, 113 S.W.3d 462 (Tex. App.--Texarkana 2003, no pet.).
Successfully obtained injunction against seismic company while it was in the process of conducting a large 3-D seismic shoot based upon trespass claims, and negotiated a favorable settlement on appeal. See Joy Resources, Inc. v. Seitel Data, Ltd., 2004 WL 1584915 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, no pet.).
Obtained take nothing judgment in favor of a Amoco Production Company in a statute of frauds and oil and gas pooling case in which the claimed damages exceeded over twenty three million dollars. See Dixon v. Amoco Production Company, 150 S.W. 3d 191 (Tex. App.--Tyler 2004, pet. denied).
Obtained summary judgment in deed construction case and affirmance on appeal. McCall v. McCall, 24 S.W.3d 508 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, pet. denied).
Obtained summary judgment on implied covenant to reasonably market claims exceeding ten million dollars and obtained affirmation of the summary judgment by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Killam Oil Co. v. Amoco Production Co., 56 F.3d 1384 (5th Cir. 1995).
Obtained judgment after trial on behalf of BP America Production Company for over thirty million in damages against large energy companies in a lease termination dispute and secured affirmance on appeal. Prize Energy Res., L.P. v. Cliff Hoskins, Inc., 345 S.W.3d 537, (Tex. App.--San Antonio 2011, no pet.).
Obtained reversal of injunction in a non-disclosure and non-competition, trade secret, breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference employment dispute. Murray v. Epic Energy Resources Inc., 300 S.W. 3d 461 (Tex. App.--Beaumont 2009, no pet.).
Obtained the reversal and rendition of bankruptcy court's and district's court's opinions on significant oil and gas covenant case which was featured as appellate case of the week in Texas Lawyer. Newco Energy v. Energytec, Inc. (In re Energytec, Inc.), 739 F.3d 215 (5th Cir. Tex. 2013).
Successfully assisted in appeal and obtained dismissal of case on remand in case involving thousands of acres of Haynesville Shale leases and assisted in securing summary judgment dismissing claims concerning the ownership of the Haynesville leases). In re KCS Resources, 2011 WL 5509029 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Nov. 10, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.).
Pursued mandamus relief and successfully negotiated favorable settlement in trial court after mandamus ruling. In re Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC., 2010 WL 3168422 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 12, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.) and Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC v. Johnson, 2010 WL 4673956 (Tex. App.--Houston [14 Dist.] Nov. 18, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.).
Represented pipeline condemner in condemnation case in McMullen County, Texas and secured jury verdict below amounts being paid by other condemners in the county for easements. LaSalle Pipeline, LP v. Donnell Lands, L.P., 336 S.W.3d 306 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2010, pet. denied).
Assisted in obtaining summary judgment granted in favor of condemner in highly publicized and contested Keystone pipeline condemnation case and affirmance on appeal. Crawford Family Farm P'ship v. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P., 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 2917, 2012 WL 1265462 (Tex. App.-Texarkana Apr. 13, 2012, pet. denied) (mem. op.).
Corrected error by trial court in dismissing case. In re TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP., 2013 WL 1790219 (Tex. App.--Beaumont, April 25, 2013, pet. dism'd. by agr.) (mem.op.).
Prevailed in trial court and appellate court in contest by landowner of right to possess easements during litigation in condemnation case. In re Tex. Rice Land Partners, LTD., 402 S.W.3d 334 (Tex. App.--Beaumont 2013, no pet.).
Successfully obtained mandamus relief granting continuance to trial setting after trial judge refused continuance after he allowed plaintiff to amend petition to assert new claims shortly before trial and prevented discovery and a trial continuance with respect to such claims). In re Marathon Oil (East Texas) LP., 2013 WL 4859306 (Tex. App.--Tyler, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.).
Successfully negotiated favorable settlement on appeal of highly publicized and contested case against local water district, county and residents to prevent their interference with reactivated pipeline under a lake which is the fresh water supply for the city). Hanlon Gas Processing, Ltd. v. Eastland County Guardian, Inc., 2013 WL 3585192 (Tex. App.--Eastland, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.) and Hanlon Gas Processing, Ltd. v. Eastland County Water Supply Dist., 2013 WL 3585296 (Tex. App.--Eastland, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.).
Prevailed on behalf of oil and gas lessee in lease termination suit. Tribo Prod. Co. Ltd. v. Newcomb, 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 7485, 2012 WL 3799365 (Tex. App.-Waco Aug. 30, 2012, no pet.) (mem. op.).
Obtained affirmance of take-nothing judgment in favor of pipeline company on trespass claim after bench trial. Doan v. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP, 542 S.W.3d 794 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, no pet.)
Obtained affirmance of trial court judgment in favor of pipeline company in condemnation proceeding, holding that Texas Supreme Court’s reasonable-probability test for public use does not apply to gas utilities, that declaration of necessity of taking specific property is not required, that there was no unity of use between landowner’s noncontiguous tracts, and that loss of lignite in place was not an appropriate measure of damages because the possibility of lignite mining on the property was speculative. TC&C Real Estate Holdings, Inc. v. ETC Katy Pipeline, Ltd., No. 10-16-00134-CV, 2017 WL 7048923 (Tex. App.—Waco Dec. 20, 2017, no pet. h.)
Obtained affirmance of federal district court’s denial of landowner’s request for injunctive relief against pipeline company, in which the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the landowner’s constitutional challenges to Texas’s eminent domain system. John P. Boerschig v. Trans-Pecos Pipeline, L.L.C, 872 F.3d 701 (5th Cir. 2017)
Obtained rendition of judgment on cross-appeal that claims were time-barred and discovery rule inapplicable to multi-million dollar trespass and nuisance claims for alleged damage to surface and subsurface fresh waters allegedly resulting from wells plugged and abandoned nearly 20 years ago. Ranchero Esperanza, Ltd. v. Marathon Oil Company, 488 S.W.3d 354 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2015, no pet.)
Obtained affirmance of summary judgment on opponent’s claim for non-payment of oil and gas proceeds, on grounds that oil purchaser was not a “payor” under Section 91.401(2) of the Texas Natural Resources Code. Fort Apache Energy, Inc. v. Resaca Resources, LLC, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 1669 (Tex. App.—Beaumont Sept. 24, 2015, no pet.)
Obtained affirmance of summary judgment on lack of necessity claims concerning a billion dollar natural gas liquids pipeline. Graves v. Lone Star NGL Pipeline LP, No. 09-18-00173-CV, 2019 WL 962544, at *5 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 2019, no pet.).
Secured immediate possession of over 1000 tracts owned by more than 8,000 owners, for one of the largest interstate pipeline in the US, in seven federal courts in four states within thirty days after FERC certificate was issued. Rover Pipeline LLC v. 1.23 Acres of Land, No. 2:17-cv-10365, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176878 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 10, 2017); Rover Pipeline LLC v. The Old Wilson Farm Land Tr., No. 17cv0170, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33232 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 8, 2017); Rover Pipeline LLC v. Kanzigg, No. 2:17-cv-105, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 215354 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 1, 2017); Rover Pipeline LLC v. Rover Tract, No. 1:17CV18, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 216978 (N.D.W. Va. Mar. 7, 2017);
In re Crosstex NGL Pipeline, L.P., No. 09-13-00168-CV, 2013 WL 2444192 (Tex. App.—Beaumont Apr. 19, 2013) (orig. proceeding)
Crosstex NGL Pipeline, L.P. v. Reins Road Farms-1, Ltd., 404 S.W.3d 754 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 2013, no pet.)
Mustang Minerals, LLC v. Houston Trust Company, as Trustee of the Fredricka H. Crain Trust Amended and Restated, No. 03-17-00152-CV, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 289 (Tex. App.—Austin 2018, pet. filed)
United States Steel Corporation v. John H. Young, Inc.; No. 03-16-00206-CV, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS (Tex. App.—Austin 2018, no pet.)
Norma Lea Bauer, et al. v. Mark White, et al., No. 13-16-00054-CV, 2016 WL 3136608 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi June 2, 2016, pet. denied)
Kendall Homes v. WTMI Properties I, Ltd. and MRM Land, Ltd., No. 09-15-00165-CV, 2016 WL 1468676 (Tex. App.—Beaumont Apr. 14, 2016, pet. denied)
Obtained take nothing final judgment in favor of BP America and Exxon Mobil after two week trial in largest land vacancy claim in recent Texas history (i.e., the King Vacancy Claim) where the claimed amount in dispute exceeded ten billion dollars ($12,500,000,000), and which involved over five thousand land, mineral and leasehold owners. Also served on a task force which worked with oil and gas industry participants, NARO, TIPRO, TxOGA, the GLO Staff, surveyors and legislators to successfully amend and reform the vacancy statutes, and appeared at a legislature committee hearing to testify in support of the new legislation.
Obtained favorable take nothing jury verdict in favor of Marathon in case in which landowner sought over twenty-four million dollars in damages for alleged lease termination, tortious interference, bad faith pooling and various other tort claims, and no appeal taken from the verdict. Lila Williamson v. Marathon Oil Co., Cause No. 10CV-30,899 in the District Court of Shelby County, Texas (January, 2014).
Obtained take nothing judgment on oil and gas environmental contamination claims in which the plaintiff sought damages in excess of fifteen million). Rancho Esperanza v. Marathon Oil Co. Cause No. 10-07-07204 in the 112th Judicial District Court of Crockett County, Texas (February, 2014).
Obtained favorable settlement in ad valorem taxation of underground storage case, saving tax payer over $15 million in taxes. Underground Services Markham, LP v. Matagorda Appraisal Review Board, Cause No. 11-H-0501-C in the 23rd Judicial District Court of Matagorda County, Texas (June, 2014).
Obtained favorable settlements of two international arbitrations involving a proposed $1.5 billion LNG project in Baja California Mexico, one under the American Arbitration Association Rules (AAA) involving a London-based company and the other under the International Centre for Dispute Resolution ("ICDR") rules involving a Mexico-based company.
Prevailed in jury trial defending pipeline company against claims that pipeline company had failed to timely remove multi-million dollar compression station after termination of easement and had lost ownership of same. Scamardo v. ETC Texas Pipeline, Ltd., Cause No. 26,410 in the 21st Judicial Court of Burleson County, Texas.
Obtained favorable settlement in multi-million dollar oil and gas preferential rights dispute on behalf of holder of preferential right. Finely Resources, Inc., et al v. Plains Exploration & Production Company and Latigo Petroleum, Inc., Cause No. 348-257-09-11, in the 348th District Court of Tarrant County, Texas.
Handled and successfully resolved oil and gas arbitration proceedings for Marathon Oil Company involving oil and gas properties in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Egypt, Canada and Australia, under the AAA, ICDR and other arbitration rules.
Obtained summary judgment on behalf of major independent oil company in drainage case in which damages exceeded one-hundred million dollars ($100,000,000), and thereafter successfully settled the case for nuisance value.
Successfully negotiated a settlement valued in excess of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) with a major oil company in a large unitization dispute.
Obtained summary judgment in favor of a large oilfield service company in a suit involving wellbore damage claims, secured order striking the Plaintiff's reservoir damage expert on Daubert challenge, obtained JNOV of jury verdict after three week jury trial, and successfully negotiated settlement of wellbore damages claims where claimed damages were in excess of $300,000,000.
Successfully negotiated no recovery settlement of wrongful death claims asserted by estate of decedents against owner of aircrafts in two separate airplane crashes involving multiple fatalities.
Tried several land partition lawsuits and obtained favorable judgments.
Handled and resolved many environmental, nuisance and trespass claims against oil and gas operators concerning alleged contamination of, and, or damage to lands.
Obtained numerous favorable summary judgments on oil and gas lease and surface lease termination issues.
Obtained favorable settlements in numerous oil and gas measurement disputes.
Successfully obtained numerous injunctions for oil and gas clients seeking access to their leaseholds to conduct oil and gas operations, without interference from surface owners.
Handled well over 2,000 condemnation cases on behalf of numerous common carriers, and gas and electric utilities involving properties in South, Central, East, North, and West Texas.
Negotiated substantial monetary settlement for landowner in condemnation action filed by H.I.S.D. for land for a middle school.
Prosecuted and defended numerous claims involving liens on real estate and oil and gas properties.
Successfully resolved large ad valorem tax cases before appraisal review boards and appellate courts, including large ad valorem tax cases involving oil and gas properties and lignite mines.
Successfully tried and prevailed on appeal on large ad valorem tax case concerning large commercial real estate tract in Houston, Texas.
Served as an arbitrator in multiple AAA oil and gas disputes and as mediator in oil and gas cases.
Successfully represented offshore entity comprised of the major oil companies in withdrawal of $500,000,000 Sales and Use Tax assessment by the Texas Comptroller's Office.