James J. Ormiston
Partner, Controversies Department Chair
When clients hire me, they can count on me to be their champion from day one until we reach the best result possible. I’m always ready to roll up my sleeves and personally handle the pivotal tasks that will impact the outcome, whether it’s designing the litigation strategy, finding the right experts, taking important depositions, presenting the case to a jury or even arguing issues on appeal.
With energy clients ranging from onshore and offshore producers and midstream companies to oilfield service providers and mineral interest owners, Jim Ormiston focuses on solving the entire gamut of problems that can arise during the exploration, production and transportation of oil and gas. Although the majority of his practice involves handling energy litigation, Jim is also well-equipped to represent clients in other complex commercial disputes in jurisdictions across Texas and the rest of the country.
Energy clients rely on Jim to find creative, cost-effective solutions for disputes in major markets and rural counties all over the state. He has deep experience in resolving every type of litigation clients may encounter in the energy space, including joint operating agreement disputes, COPAS accounting disputes, claims involving natural gas or crude oil purchase and sale contracts, gas processing and balancing agreement disputes, claims involving oil & gas gathering and transportation agreements, surface use and damages claims, improper pooling and failure to develop issues, royalty and post-production expense disputes, and title adjudications.
Jim never passes on an opportunity to help clients resolve challenging commercial dispute outside the energy sector, particularly when unique issues are involved and the stakes are high. He has guided plaintiffs and defendants to favorable outcomes in litigation covering a broad range of industries and issues, including everything from real estate disputes, theft of trade secrets and fraud, to class actions/mass torts, employment-related matters and breach of fiduciary duties.
Complex cases often go beyond the trial court and require appellate review. Unlike most trial lawyers, Jim embraces the appellate process and manages every aspect of the appeal process to ensure his clients’ interests are fully protected, whether he's seeking to overturn an unfavorable decision or defending a favorable one. He has handled numerous post-judgment and interlocutory appeals before courts across Texas and the country, resulting in 19 published opinions to date.
- Successfully represented non-operating working interest owner (a publicly-traded E&P company) in prosecuting claims against the operator arising from botched attempts to complete oil and gas wells, which resulted in corrosion of well casings and abandonment of wellbores; the suit was brought in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.
- Successfully represented operator in suit against working interest owner to recover unpaid joint interest billings due under Joint Operating Agreement.
- Obtained a take-nothing summary judgment, affirmed on appeal, on behalf of oil and gas lessors in a title dispute against parties claiming competing ownership of the mineral estate.
- Obtained a summary judgment on behalf of an offshore midstream company finding that the United States Department of Interior violated the Administrative Procedures Act and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution.
- $30.5 million recovery for an offshore gas producer for the repudiation of a long-term gas purchase contract.
- $30 million settlement of a state-wide royalty owner class action involving underpayment of royalties and failure to reasonably market the gas.
- $26.54 million settlement in a royalty owner class action case involving underpayment of royalties and failure to reasonably market the gas.
- $29.5 million settlement on behalf of approximately 130 royalty owners on a claim for failure to reasonably market natural production.
- $20 million settlement in a class action on behalf of approximately 1,600 West Texas royalty owners.
- Obtained a take-nothing defense verdict and final judgment on behalf of a publicly traded exploration and production company sued for allegedly overcharging for indirect operating expenses under a Joint Operating Agreement.
- $2 million judgment following a bench trial on behalf of a class of 6,000 mineral interest owners against an operator for violations of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Proceeds Payment Act.
- Obtained a take-nothing jury verdict and final judgment on behalf of an operator sued by non-operating working interest owners alleging the operator had over-charged for expenses under joint operating agreements; the operator recovered $330,000 of attorneys’ fees on a counterclaim, and the judgment was affirmed on appeal.
- Obtained a take-nothing jury verdict and final judgment on behalf of an operator sued for surface damages allegedly resulting from oil and gas operations.
- Obtained a take-nothing summary judgment, affirmed on appeal, for an operator sued by landowners for alleged private nuisance related to oilfield operations in the vicinity of the plaintiffs’ home.
- $1 million settlement on behalf of a natural gas producer in a breach of gas purchase contract case.
- $950,000 recovery for an oilfield service company in a breach of contract case.
- Obtained a take-nothing judgment on appeal on behalf of an operator sued for additional overriding royalties on producing wells; the plaintiffs had obtained a summary judgment in their favor that was reversed and rendered on appeal in favor of the operator.
- Successfully defended operators in a claim brought by royalty owners who alleged that certain oil and gas lease amendments were obtained by fraud and negligent misrepresentations, and who also alleged improper pooling of the oil and gas leases; the case settled for a nominal amount while defendants' motion for summary judgment was pending.
- Represented operator in connection with claims against drilling contractor for over-billing.
- Defended a publicly-traded oil and gas company against claims that it delivered contaminated natural gas to a processing plant.
- Secured a dismissal without payment of consideration on behalf of a natural gas marketing company sued by a gas producer for breach of contract and antitrust violations.
- Successfully defended exploration and production company in a suit brought by a former employee who claimed he was entitled to overriding royalty interests in certain prospects he worked on.
- Successfully defended operator against claims of subsurface water contamination.
- Defended an oil and gas operator for alleged surface damages occurring during a seismic survey.
- $3 million buy-out settlement in a dispute between members of a deadlocked limited liability company.
- $4.4 million jury verdict on behalf of a sales outsourcing company in a breach of contract case.
- Obtained dismissal on venue grounds in mass tort action brought by over 250 plaintiffs seeking in excess of $100 million in damages; judgment of dismissal was affirmed on appeal.
- Successfully defended a public company in a breach of contract, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty case in which the plaintiff sought $100 million in actual damages and three times that amount in exemplary damages; the case settled for less than one percent of the alleged actual damages during the first week of trial.
- Defended operator of a timeshare vacation club in a nationwide class action, resulting in a settlement covering approximately 19,000 class members.
- Won a take-nothing jury verdict on behalf of a client sued by his former law firm for approximately $500,000 in unpaid legal fees and expenses.
- $600,000 settlement on behalf of an electrical contractor for damages relating to the purchase of defective emergency generators.
- $450,000 recovery for an airline due to the improper storage of its airplanes following 9/11.
- Successfully defended publicly-traded airline in suit brought by 401(k) services provider for alleged fees owed; the case settled the day before trial for less than one-third of amount claimed.
- Successfully prosecuted claims on behalf of company involved in the purified water business against partners who were engaging in a competing business.
- Represented a member of a limited liability company in a suit against another member for failure to pay its share of the company's expenses, and defended counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty; the case settled favorably after three days of trial with the defendant conveying its membership interest to the plaintiff and withdrawing from the business.
- Defended oilfield service company against misappropriation of trade secrets claims brought by a competitor in Wyoming.
- Successfully defended lender against fraud and breach of contract claims asserted by borrower; court struck borrower's pleadings and claims were dismissed without payment of consideration to the plaintiff.
- Defended a manufacturer of holographic imaging machines in a breach of contract, breach of warranty and DTPA case; the case was dismissed when both the plaintiff and the defendant were acquired by a public company.
- Represented an office supply company in a UCC case against a credit union for honoring checks over forged endorsements; the case settled during the second day of trial for the full amount of actual damages sought.
- Successfully prosecuted a petition for writ of mandamus on behalf of an energy brokerage company; following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court held the energy brokerage company in civil contempt for purportedly violating a 1998 injunction. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals, however, granted the broker's petition for mandamus relief and ordered the trial court to vacate the contempt order. Obtained a favorable arbitration award on behalf of an energy brokerage company against a former executive who claimed more than $2 million in damages. The arbitrator ruled the executive was terminated "for cause" and awarded the executive only the amount of compensation due at termination, which was less than 10% of the amount claimed.
- Obtained temporary injunctive relief on behalf of an oilfield services provider against a former employee who formed a competing business, which led to a favorable settlement and recovery.
- Successfully defended investment bankers who left one firm to join another, including the denial of injunctive relief sought by former employer.
- Won an $85,000 arbitration award (the full amount sought) on behalf of a woman who brought a claim against her former employer for violations of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.
- Represented an insurance agency in a suit against a former officer and employee for violations of a covenant not to compete; the case settled during jury deliberations for the full amount of actual damages sought.
- Defense of publicly-traded company in suit for severance benefits under ERISA.
- Won a complete defense verdict on behalf of a Houston real estate developer in a case where the plaintiff alleged breach of a commercial real estate sales contract and sought specific performance and damages.
- Won a take-nothing judgment on behalf of a landlord who was sued by a former tenant alleging DTPA violations and conversion; judgment was affirmed on appeal.
- $1.6 million settlement on behalf of an investor defrauded in connection with a bonded life settlement investment.
- Obtained a dismissal without payment of consideration on behalf of one of the defendants in a case brought by the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Enron Corp. in the Enron MDL Litigation.
Defense of Serious Injury/Wrongful Death
- Successfully defended an oil and gas operator in an explosion and fire case, resulting in one fatality and four burn victims.
- Won a take-nothing verdict on behalf of a restaurant in a non-subscriber personal injury case filed by one of its former employees.
- Obtained a dismissal without payment of consideration on behalf of a seat belt manufacturer/importer in a wrongful death products liability case.
- Defense of property owner against claims brought by contractors burned when a natural gas pipeline ruptured and exploded.
- Ross v. Flower, No. 03-19-00516-CV, 2021 WL 904864 (Tex. App.—Austin Mar. 10, 2021, no pet. h.) (mem. op.)
- Anglo-Dutch Energy, LLC v. Crawford Hughes Operating Company, 2017 WL 4440530 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, pet. denied)
- Cerny v. Marathon Oil Corp., et al., 480 S.W.3d 612 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2015, pet. denied)
- The First Baptist Church of Roswell v. Yates Petroleum Corp., 345 P.3d 310 (NM SCt. 2015)
- MCS Minerals, Ltd. v. Plains Exploration & Prod. Co., 2014 WL 223074 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2014, no pet.)
- Adams v. Raintree Vacation Exchange, LLC, 702 F.3d 436 (7th Cir. 2012)
- The First Baptist Church of Roswell, et al. v. Yates Petroleum Corp., 281 P.3d 1235 (2012)
- In re Choice! Energy, L.P., 325 S.W.3d 805 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, orig. proceeding)
- Edascio, L.L.C. v. NextiraOne, L.L.C., 264 S.W.3d 786 (Tex. App. - Houston [1st Dist.] 2008, pet. denied)
- In re NextiraOne, L.L.C., 2006 WL 2075693 (Tex. App. - Houston [1st Dist.] 2006)
- Illinois Tool Works, Inc. v. Harris, 194 S.W.3d 529 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, no pet.)
- In re NextiraOne, L.L.C., 2006 WL 250478 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] 2006)
- Union Pacific Resources, Inc. v. Hankins, 111 S.W.3d 69 (Tex. 2003)
- Welch v. Hrabar, 110 S.W.3d 601 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, no pet.)
- Stirman v. Exxon Corp., 280 F.3d 554 (5th Cir. 2002)
- Union Pacific Resources Group, Inc. v. Neinast, 67 S.W.3d 275 (Tex. App. - Houston [1st Dist.] 2001, pet. denied)
- Horizon Resources, Inc. v. Putnam, 976 S.W.2d 268 (Tex. App. - Corpus Christi 1998, no pet.)
- Skaggs v. Conoco, Inc., 957 P.2d 526 (N.M. App. 1998)
- New Bremen Corp. v. Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., 108 F.3d 332, 1997 WL 73788 (5th Cir. 1997)
- M. H., Inc. v. Guidry, East, Barnes & Bono, Inc., 834 S.W.2d 550 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.) 1992, no pet.)
- Selected by his peers for inclusion in Woodward/White, Inc.'s The Best Lawyers in America in the field of Commercial Litigation (2013 – 2024)
- Named a "Super Lawyer" by Texas Super Lawyers (a Thomson Reuters company) as published in Texas Monthly (2008 – 2023)
- Named a Houstonia Magazine Top Lawyer in Houston (2018 - 2023)
- AV Preeminent® rated (the highest possible Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating designation)
- Fellow, International Society of Barristers (2012 – present)
- Board Member, International Society of Barristers Foundation (2018 – present)
- State Bar of Texas
- Litigation Section
- Oil, Gas & Mineral Law Section
- American Bar Association
- Litigation Section
- Oil, Gas & Mineral Law Section
- Houston Bar Association
- Litigation Section
- Oil, Gas & Mineral Law Section
- Houston Bar Foundation, Fellow
- Texas Bar Foundation, Sustaining Life Fellow
- Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association
- Executive Committee of the University of Texas School of Law Alumni Association (2010 – 2016)
When I Feel Most At Home
- Improving my golf game
- Empty-nest traveler
- Being active by running, spinning and stretching
- Watching sports – primarily college football and basketball, and golf