KINSMAN - A couple on Perkins Greenville Road have filed a class-action lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court attempting to void an oil and gas lease they signed with North Coast Energy of Youngstown.
The filing shows that Kenneth and Martha Cole will represent the interests of the entire class, which they say consists of more than 40 separate parties with identical claims against North Coast.
The Coles claim that they signed a lease with North Coast in 2006 for a period of "greater than three years'' in order for the company to develop the gas and oil resources under their property. They say that development has not happened.
North Coast has since sold the mineral rights to EnerVest Operating LLC of Cleveland, a subsidiary of EnerVest in Houston. That transaction took place in 2009.
The Coles allege in the suit that the contract was notarized by Gale J. Burn, a notary public, but that Burn was never at the Coles' home when the lease was executed, nor did she ever witness their signatures. Nor was Burn present to witness their signatures for a memoradum regarding the lease. The lease and memorandum were executed by Steven Eakin on behalf of North Coast.
A declaration of pooling and utilization also was signed by the Coles and allegedly notarized by Marie E. Meredith, whom the suit says also was never present nor ever witnessed the Coles' signatures to the document.
The Coles say the documents were all notarized after they applied their signatures, and that Eakin and Burn had a practice of illegally notarizing documents.
The filing says the Coles' suit represents all Ohio property owners who executed leases with North Coast and whose leases were executed by Eakin and Burn on behalf of North Coast, notarized by Burn and are now owned completely or in part by EnerVest.
The lawsuit questions whether Eakin, Burn or others legally notarized the leases, whether Burn had a practice of notarizing leases without witnessing signatures and whether such leases are enforceable under Ohio law.
No working phone number could be found for North Coast. Vice president and chief administrative officer for EnerVest, Ron Whitmire, said his company cannot comment on pending litigation.
John and Leslie Murray and Michael Stewart of Murray and Murray law firm in Sandusky and Andrew Suhar of Suhar and Macejko law firm of Youngstown are representing the plaintiffs. None of those attorneys could be reached for immediate comment Tuesday.