An attorney in Belmont County, Ohio—Rebecca Bench—is suing to end a lease deal she and her husband signed in 2008, originally with Mason Dixon Energy for $100 per acre. Mason Dixon later sold the lease to Hess Corp.
The $100 per acre Bench and her husband were paid is a fraction of recent transactions, some as high as $5,900 per acre. Bench says Mason Dixon was never registered to do business in Ohio, meaning the original contract was fraudulent.
Bench also alleges Mason Dixon “made fraudulent representations to plaintiffs regarding the oil to be drilled in the area and the value of the said oil.”
Mason Dixon attorney Karen Kahle sees the matter somewhat differently, stating Mason Dixon “no longer claims any interest in the real property at issue.” However, Kahle said [Judge] Lewis denied her motion to dismiss Mason Dixon from the case.
“The case is still in the litigation stage known as pleadings, which in this instance means that the parties are trying, through motions, to get rid of extraneous issues and get to the real claims of each party,” Kahle said.
Hess attorney Gina Russo states in her response to Bench’s complaint that her client is “without knowledge or sufficient information” to comment on whether Mason Dixon was ever licensed to do business in Ohio, or if company representatives made false representations regarding the value of the land.
Russo also notes that Bench’s assertion that doing business in Ohio without a license is a criminal offense “does not state factual allegations.”*
If Bench is successful in her lawsuit, it would likely affect not only her own property, but also that of an additional 300 landowners part of the original Maxon Dixon deal.
*Wheeling (WV) The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Jul 9, 2012) – Attorney Sues Over Gas Lease Deals