Anderson v. Beech Aircraft Corporation – Case Brief
Anderson v. Beech Aircraft Corporation, 699 P.2d 1023 (Kan. 1985).
Facts: Avanti held an oil and gas lease on property owned by Anderson (P). The gas that Avanti obtained was being stored by Beech Aircraft (D) and was not native gas. Native gas had at one time been obtained from the reservoir but after it was depleted, Beech injected gas into the reservoir for storage. Beech Aircraft did not have the right to use the part of the reservoir beneath Anderson’s farm.
Anderson sued to quiet title and recover for damages for slander of title and trespass and for an accounting. The District Court granted a motion for plaintiff on the issue of the quiet title action and held that he was entitled to produce any nonnative gas injected for storage by the defendant which entered plaintiff’s property. Beech Aircraft appealed on an interlocutory appeal.
Issue: Does the law of capture apply to nonnative stored natural gas?
Holding and Rule: Yes. The law of capture applies to nonnative stored natural gas.
In its ruling, the court followed the Hammonds doctrine. The nature of oil and gas is fugitive and migratory and can escape without the violation of its owner and is analogous to wild animals or animals ferae naturae. In cases involving the storage of water underground, once the water is returned to the earth or to a running stream a prior possessor’s exclusive individual title is lost.
If stored gas escapes to other lands or comes under the control of another, whatever title the original owner had is lost, but the original owner is not liable for trespass.
The court held that, by statute, only a natural gas public utility could appropriate for its use, for the underground storage of natural gas, any subsurface stratum which a commission had found suitable and in the public interest. Beech Aircraft was not a public utility company and had not acquired any contract rights from the plaintiff to store its gas.
See Ghen v. Rich for a property law case brief addressing the doctrine of ferae naturae in identifying the true owner of a whale.