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Sunoco Seeks High Court Review of $155 Million Damages Award

May 4, 2022, 3:06 PM

The Tenth Circuit must step in and resolve whether a lower court’s $155 million damages award against Sunoco Inc. and Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals LP was final, and therefore subject to appeal, the company told the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sunoco challenged a lower court’s order to pay the class action damages to well owners for interest on late payments for crude oil. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit dismissed the case in November for lack of jurisdiction.

The appeals court’s decision “not only defies bedrock jurisdictional principles, but leaves Sunoco in an impossible position,” according to the high court petition.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma believes there’s a final judgment, and Sunoco disagrees. The court “with the power and duty to resolve that dispute—the Tenth Circuit—refuses to do so,” the petition says. The Tenth Circuit refused to consider Sunoco’s appeal because the company “asserted its belief” that there’s no final judgment in the dispute, according to the petition.

Sunoco says it filed “protective appeals” that sought review of the merits of the case while arguing that the orders didn’t comply with the Tenth Circuit’s requirements for a final judgment. The appeals court is “punishing Sunoco for alerting it to jurisdictional defects” and has “effectively rendered protective appeals a dead letter,” the petition says.

It’s “common practice” for appeals courts to resolve jurisdictional disputes in the context of protective appeals, Sunoco argues. This applies even when the one who filed the appeal argues the court lacks jurisdiction to solve the dispute, according to the company’s petition.

The appeals court “has now sent a clear signal to Sunoco and other would-be appellants that protective notices of appeal are not a real option,” the petition says.

The Tenth Circuit mentioned other options Sunoco could’ve pursued, but it declined to say whether the options would’ve established jurisdiction, according to the petition. All the company wants is its “day in appellate court” on the merits of an award that “Sunoco believes is deeply flawed,” the petition says.

Sunoco’s petition was docketed May 2.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP represents Sunoco. Beck Redden LLP represents the respondent class.

The case is Sunoco Partners Mktg. & Terminals LP v. Cline, U.S., No. 21-1404, petition docketed 5/2/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maya Earls in Washington at mearls@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com