In a case last year before the Texas Supreme Court, BPX Operating Co. v. Strickhausen, 629 S. W. 3d. 189 (Tex. 2021), the Court addressed whether the acceptance of royalty checks by a lessor constituted a ratification of the oil company’s pooling of the leased premises in violation of the anti-pooling clause in the lease.
Margaret Ann Strickhausen signed and oil and gas lease with BPX Operating that specifically prohibited pooling without the express written consent of the lessor. BPX sent her a ratification of pooling which she refused to sign. BPX pooled her property anyway. BPX continued to send her royalty checks, totaling over $700,000, which she deposited. BPX claimed that Ms. Strickhausen had therefore impliedly ratified the pooling of her property.
The Supreme Court stated: “Ratification is the adoption or confirmation by a person with knowledge of all material facts of a prior acts which then did not legally bind him and which he had the right to repudiate”. In this case, there were a number of objective facts which indicated that Ms. Strickhausen did not agree with or consent to the pooling and that she accepted the royalty checks believing that these were the royalties she was entitled to without the pooling taking place. The Court further stated that “ratification is not a game of ‘gotcha’ ” and ruled that the lessor’s acceptance of royalty checks under these circumstances was not a ratification of the pooling by the BPX.
While the facts in this case favored the lessor, the case illustrates how important it is not to accept and deposit a royalty check if you are aware of a breach of the lease by the lessor. It is important to consult with an oil and gas attorney to determine whether the deposit of that check will constitute a ratification of the lessee’s activities.